At many street corners in inner Southeast (also downtown and in the Pearl), one is assailed by an unpleasant poo smell, presumably from the sewers. What's the deal? Is this our reward for paying billions in taxes for the Big Pipe?
—Nose in Clothespin
Let's be clear, Nose: You live in a relatively small geographical area that contains just more than 600,000 people (many of whom, this being Portland, eat a lot of fiber-rich kale).
Every 10 days, we produce enough shit—not watery sewage, but actual turds—to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The fact that you don't have to Michael Phelps your way through such a pool on your way to work every day is one of the unheralded miracles of modern civil engineering.
For most of human history, the obvious economic and social benefits of living in a major city were mitigated by the fact that everybody was ankle-deep in crap. Now it all just magically goes away, so pardon me if I'm not scandalized if it occasionally blows you a kiss on its way out the door.
Here's the deal: As we should all be aware by now, Portland, along with 771 other U.S. municipalities, has a combined sewer system. That means stormwater and chocolate thunder run through the same channels.
The Big Pipe project didn't change that (redoing the entire sewer system would make your "billions in taxes" seem like chump change), it just solved the problem of the system getting overwhelmed by rainwater and discharging untreated sewage into the Willamette.
Thus, there are still points at which open storm drains have to link up with the larger and more fragrant main system. This connection is particularly noticeable in the dry summer months, when the poo-to-stormwater ratio is high.
Still, it could be worse, and heavy-metal-loving Portland should count its blessings: Maybe not everyone can go on tour with Slipknot, but—thanks to modern sanitation—anyone can release a 7-inch with Korn.