Recent Heavy Rain Event Results in Sanitary Sewer Overflow to Willamette River, Shelton Ditch, and Pringle Creek

Posted on January 20, 2024

CORRECTION:  The second overflow was discharged into Shelton Ditch (previously reported as the Mill Race).

The recent snowmelt followed by rainfall and saturated ground conditions have resulted in the City of Salem overflowing diluted raw sewage into three local waterways. The Willamette River discharge took place from the authorized Union and Church Street overflow relief location starting at 5:03 p.m. and stopped at 7:16 p.m. on January 18, 2024. The quantity discharged was 22,000 gallons. The second overflow into the Shelton Ditch was from three separate manholes around 1100 and 885 Airport Road SE.  This overflow started at 3:38 p.m. and was stopped at 6:15 p.m. A total quantity of 24,335 gallons was discharged from the manholes. This overflow was caused by a debris jam of grease and rags that was quickly cleared by the City’s Wastewater Operations field staff. The third overflow was into Pringle Creek at 4391 Nalani Ct. SE.  This overflow started at 2:15 p.m., was stopped at 7:15 p.m., and discharged a total of 306 gallons. This location has been previously identified as having capacity concerns and is on an engineering project list to address. Both of the City’s wastewater treatment plants (the Willow Lake Wastewater Treatment Facility and the River Road Wet Weather Treatment Facility) were operating at their maximum treatment capacity during the heavy rain event.

When the ground becomes saturated, groundwater enters the sanitary sewer from cracks and holes in pipes in addition to footing drains and other sources of extraneous water from private property. When this occurs, the ability of the sanitary sewer system to transport sewerage to the water pollution control facility at Willow Lake is exceeded and the system becomes surcharged. When these conditions become severe enough, the system relives itself via the authorized relief locations.

Signs have been posted warning people to avoid contact with the water in Willamette River, Shelton Ditch and Pringle Creek due to potentially high levels of bacteria. Water quality samples will continue to be taken until the results indicate that the issue has been cleared. The signs will be removed once the bacteria levels return to normal.

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