Portland begins weekly summer water testing of the Willamette


The Portland Bureau of Environmental Services believes the Willamette River is cleaner than it has been in decades.

The bureau has been conducting water quality tests for a number of years and will be taking samples from five popular locations on the river every week this summer to measure bacteria and water temperature.

The bureau credits cleaner water to a 2011 piping project that reduced sewer overflow into the river, and officials said 98 percent of tests taken since that project reveal water that is within safe levels set by the state, so they're not expecting any big surprises year.

Wednesday, bureau scientists collected a sample at the Portland Boathouse dock, which then went to a lab to be analyzed. The results will be posted online Friday morning on the Willamette River Recreation Index web page, a process that will be repeated all summer.

Despite the drop in bacteria found in the river, one concern that remains this summer is algae. When it gets really hot, toxic algae can bloom in the water, and unsafe levels can force the closure of swimming areas.

During the tests Wednesday, scientists determined the water temperature was 62 degrees.

Boaters told FOX 12 that while bacteria does not really concern them, they do take extra caution to monitor river reports when it gets warm.

City officials also stressed water safety, with Portland Fire and Rescue crews reminding people that swimming in cold water can turn deadly within just a couple minutes. They also said it was important to be mindful of currents, not to go out on the water alone and always wear a life jacket.

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