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the big pipe

Big Pipe Portal

Big Pipe Portal

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

  • Hikes to this destination:
    • Swan Island-Mocks Crest Loop Hike (TH | | LOG)
  • Latitude: 45.55365
  • Longitude: -122.69818
  • Maps: Oregon Hikers MapsGoogle Maps
  • Elevation: 40 feet

Description

The Big Pipe Portal sculpture, dedicated in 2009 and created by the rhiza A + D firm, symbolizes Portland’s costliest infrastructure project at $1.4 billion. The Big Pipe runs under the Willamette and was designed to carry larger volumes of sewerage in order to prevent the frequent overflows into the river. The sculpture is the same diameter as the pipe itself. Just to the east, you can see the Swan Island Pump Station complex.

The acreage in this area is set to be extensively developed in the coming years, so expect a lot of construction fencing and noise!

More Links

  • Big Pipe Portal Celebrates Portland’s Big Pipe Project (rhiza A + D)
  • Big Pipe Portal: Making the Invisible Visible (Public Art Archive)
  • West Side Big Pipe (City of Portland, Environmental Services)
  • “Portland’s $1.4 billion Big Pipe project comes to an end after 20 years” (Oregon Live)

Contributors

  • bobcat (creator)

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.

Big Pipe Portal Big Pipe Portal From Oregon Hikers Field Guide Hikes to this destination: Swan Island-Mocks Crest Loop Hike (TH | | LOG) Latitude: 45.55365

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Portland’s Big Pipe Is Keeping Poop Out of the River

Less than a decade ago, swimming in the Willamette River would have been a game of bacterial Russian roulette.

That’s because the city’s sewer system, which shared pipes with stormwater drainage, was prone to overflowing with as little as a 10th of an inch of rainfall. In the early ’90s, according to the Bureau of Environmental Services’ website, “an average of 6 billion gallons of combined stormwater and sewage overflowed to the Willamette River and Columbia Slough every year.”

But last December, when Portland experienced an “atmospheric river” that dumped 3.1 inches of rain on Mount Tabor and 1.5 inches in the West Hills, there were zero shits to be found in the Willamette.

What changed? The Big Pipe.

Thanks to a $1.4 billion investment from the city in 2011, two massive tunnels on either side of the river now direct your excretions to a treatment plant on North Columbia Boulevard.

“The Big Pipe is working and the Willamette is the big winner,” City Commissioner Nick Fish, manager of the Bureau of Environmental Services, told WW in December. “Bring it on, Mother Nature!”

The Big Pipe project now successfully diverts 94 percent of sewage from ending up in the river. Frequent E. coli tests by the city show that bacteria from the small percentage of feces that does escape the sewer does not make the river unsafe to recreate in.

Just remember: “Even though Willamette River bacteria levels are low,” the bureau cautions, “it’s never safe to swallow water from urban rivers and streams.”

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