New million-gallon underground tanks to reduce pollution into Back Cove

One of the stories I’ve gotten the most feedback on since I’ve been covering Portland for the BDN is an early May piece about the city’s $170 million sewer/storm water system overhaul plan, which aims to dramatically reduce the frequency with which untreated sewage is flushed into water bodies by heavy storm water.

A sign announces combined sewer outflow pipe No. 7 on Baxter Boulevard in Portland. During heavy rain, untreated sewerage flows into Back Cove through the pipe. (BDN photo by Troy R. Bennett)

Among the projects in the multifaceted plan is the installation of underground storage tanks, which could hold the first couple million gallons of storm water out of the combined sewer pipes until the volume slows down and the available capacity in the system returns. Then, when the weather dries up, the water would be released from the tanks and allowed through the system at a time when the treatment facilities can handle it.

(Confused? Seriously, just spend a few minutes reading this story, and it’s all laid out in greater detail than I’d like to rehash here. If you still want more, check out these companion pieces by my colleague here and here.)

Two of the more prominent of the underground tanks, under Baxter Boulevard and Payson Park, are scheduled to be installed starting this November. And as much as everybody seems to be behind the idea of keeping sewage out of Back Cove — which these two tanks will be set up pretty specifically to do — burying million-gallon concrete storage tanks in heavy traffic areas is likely to cause some heartburn.

Google maps

A stretch of Baxter Boulevard from Vannah Street to Bates Street will be shut down to all vehicular traffic for about eight months. Yes, eight months. Pedestrians and bicyclists should continue to have access to the Back Cove Trail, for what it’s worth.

Members of the public are being invited to a public meeting next Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 6 p.m. at Ocean Avenue Elementary School to hear more about the project and air concerns.

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.