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Check out the E. coli before you plunge into Willamette

Want to know the water quality or temperature in the Willamette River before you paddle, row, wade or swim?

Folks can find out before they venture out of the home, thanks to the city Bureau of Environmental Services. The bureau, which collects and analyzes water samples at five recreational areas on the river, is now posting the results on the web. They call it the Willamette River Recreation Index, where people can find out the water temperature and level of E. coli bacteria in the water.

Since the city completed the $1.4 billion Big Pipe project in 2011, E. coli counts are way down, thanks to sharp reductions in spillage of untreated sewage into the river from the city’s combined sewer overflow system.

Sewer overflows once were common in Portland, sending untreated sewage into the river about 50 times a year. In the past two and a half years, there’ve been seven overflow events, usually after heavy winter or spring rains.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality sets a health standard of 406 E. coli organisms per 100 milliliters of water. But counts in the river are now consistently low during the sunny months when use of the river is highest.

On June 3, for example, the E. coli count was 5 at Riverplace Marina.

To see the Willamette River Recreation Index: www.portlandoregon.gov/bes/WaterQuality.

Steve Law can be reached at 503-546-5139 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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