PORTLAND — First thought to be sinkholes, the tunnels that started appearing in the yards of homes in Southeast Portland this week turned out to be old cesspools. Now the city is providing resources for homeowners.
“It provides a lot of valuable information on how you can do some research to see if your home had a cesspool or other type of septic system, how you can locate it and the steps to decommission that,” said Ross Carone with the Bureau of Development Services.
Before septic tanks were common, sewage was disposed of in the covered enclosures. Septic tanks, cesspools and seepage pits are required by law to be decommissioned when no longer in use. A permit is required to do so.
Most of the old cesspools are east of the Willamette River, while homes west of the river likely had septic tanks.
“There are thousands of these in the Portland area,” Mike Runyan with Environmental Works told KGW. He helps find and decommission old cesspools. Runyan says they’re most often found at homes built before the 1930’s.
A man found a 20′-deep hole in his backyard in Southeast Portland on Wednesday a day after a woman and her dog fell into a similar hole and were rescued by firefighters. Last month, a man was found dead inside a hole from a cistern that opened up beneath his garden that was full of water.