A sewer runs through it: The Willamette River in the 21st century

Article by Stephen Quirke published in Street Roots:


The Willamette waterfront is many things to many people – a place to sleep, a food source, a wildlife habitat, a place to swim and for others, a place to dump industrial waste.

An Oregonian report from 1906 called the river a “common sewer for the entire valley,” and after a state official reported typhoid germs in the river that year, the Oregonian suggested that readers should “cultivate the gentle art of keeping their mouths closed while in the water.” In 1885, the city of Portland formed a committee to find water less polluted by sewers and pulp and paper mills, and by 1895 the first water from Bull Run was flowing into the city.