City News

City releases 3 million gallons of sewage into Willamette River due to rainstorm

The city of Salem released millions of gallons of raw sewage mixed with rainwater into the Willamette River Wednesday as heavy rains overloaded the city system.

The release included 3.15 million gallons of diluted raw sewage from the North River Road Wet Weather Treatment Facility and the Union Street Pump Station, city spokeswoman Heather Dimke said.

“During intense rainstorms, the saturated ground allows water to enter the sanitary sewer system through cracks and holes in the pipe network. This overwhelms the sewer system’s capacity to transport sewage to the water pollution control facility, resulting in an overload. In severe cases, overflows become necessary, leading to the release of sewage at authorized relief locations,” the city said in a news release Thursday.

Another 201,600 gallons of diluted sewage overflowed from seven other locations around Salem into the Willamette River, Pringle Creek, Claggett Creek and the Little Pudding River, Dimke said.

Salem recorded about 2.5 inches of rain Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service, after days of heavy precipitation that led to some flooding on city roads.

Overflows were stopped Wednesday evening.

Warning signs have been posted telling people to avoid contact with the water due to high bacteria levels. The signs will be removed when bacteria levels return to normal, which typically takes a few days, Dimke said.

If you see an overflowing manhole or wish to report a spill, please call the City of Salem Public Works Department Dispatch Center at 503-588-6333.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.