Pressurized pipe break causes major sewage spill, prompts road closure in North Portland

By Mary Holcomb, Digital Editor

(UI) — A significant sewage release occurred under the N Columbia Boulevard overpass just north of Lombard Street in North Portland, Oregon, on March 21. City officials promptly responded to the incident, including closing a portion of N Columbia Boulevard from N Rivergate to N Burgard roads.

N Columbia Boulevard overpass (Image Source: Portland Bureau of Environmental Services)

The incident led to both road closures and environmental concerns as sewage overflowed into the Columbia Slough.

City crews swiftly mobilized to address the situation, implementing measures to contain the sewage release and assess its impact. The suspected cause of the spill was a break in a pressurized pipe from a nearby pump station responsible for carrying sewage to the city’s main wastewater treatment plant.

Despite efforts to contain the spill, sewage reached the Columbia Slough, posing risks to public health. Environmental Services issued advisories urging the public to avoid contact with the slough’s water due to elevated levels of bacteria. Warning signs were promptly placed along the affected areas of the slough to alert the public.

Crews worked, both overnight and throughout the day, to make progress in containing the sewage release, using barriers to prevent further environmental impact. Efforts were also made to pump the effluent back into the city’s system. However, the incident was anticipated to require at least two weeks for repairs.

In addition to the sewage spill, engineers from the Portland Bureau of Transportation collaborated with Environmental Services to assess potential damage to the Columbia Boulevard overpass ramp. The flow of high-pressure sewage within the ramp structure may have caused damage, necessitating further investigation.

As the situation unfolded, city officials emphasized the importance of obeying road closure signage and detours. Heavy freight trucks were cautioned against using alternative routes, as traffic could exacerbate existing damage and prolong repair efforts.

N Columbia Boulevard remained closed through the last week of March as crews continued to assess the extent of the damage and complete necessary repairs.

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