Source Of White Substance In Fanno Creek Identified

Photo: Ford, Brad

Something mysterious was happening to Fanno Creek near the Red Electric Bridge. The water was turning white. 

Environmental Services’ spill response team began receiving reports from the public beginning the Tuesday before Labor Day and continuing through Saturday. During those days, investigators scouted the creek near the new pedestrian bridge at SW Bertha Boulevard near Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway as well as upstream properties. On Sunday, an investigator found the source: A pollution remediation project at a dry cleaners’ property on 6337 SW Capitol Highway was using a white liquid on site, and somehow that substance was reaching the creek. 

Environmental Services investigators determined that the substance the remediation crew was using was BAC-9, a non-toxic brew of microbes and vegetable oil used to clean up certain pollutants underground. The vegetable oil feeds the microbes which in turn break down pollutants. 

Even though it is billed a non-toxic, City code prohibits any discharge to the stormwater system and city creeks. Environmental Services’ investigation is ongoing and may include an enforcement action against the remediation company. 

Once notified that the substance was seeping into the city storm sewer system and seen entering the creek, the remediation crew at the dry cleaners immediately stopped its operations. Environmental Services cleaned out the stormwater pipe between the property and the creek, and deployed a boom to contain the pollutants in the creek.

Environmental Services thanks members of the public who called the spill response hotline at 503-823-7180. Environmental Services monitors the hotline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and responds promptly to reports from the public.

As a reminder, the public can help keep Portland’s streams and creeks healthy by: 

Keeping storm drains clear of leaves and debris and letting only rain go down storm drains. 

Maintaining motor vehicles. If you have add motor oil in between regularly scheduled oil changes, you have a leak, and that oil ends up on roads and possibly in creeks. 

Avoiding using chemical fertilizers and pesticides in yards and gardens.

If you see a discharge of any other substance, contact the spill response hotline at 503-823-7180. 

Source: Portland Bureau of Environmental Services

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