The Need for the CSO Exhibit
Despite the City's outeach efforts, results from a front-end survey of fifty visitors at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) indicate that the general public may have many misconceptions and lack fundamental knowledge about sewage overflows. While most participants (90%) thought that sewage sometimes does flow into the waterways near Portland, typically they severely underestimated or did not know how many times a year overflows occur. Similarly, few participants were able to accurately explain why overflows happen or when they began to take place. Most participants (70%) had never heard the term "Combined Sewer Overflow" or "CSO," and a majority of those who had heard the term could not offer any definition of it.
It is critical that the public develop an understanding of the effects of CSOs and the projects that will reduce them. CSOs negatively affect water quality and ecosystem health, consequently impacting public health, wildlife, and Portland residents' quality of life. In addition, the City's actions to mitigate CSOs will impact the lives of Portland residents through traffic delays resulting from necessary construction projects and also through increased sewer bills. Finally, individual residents have the power to help reduce stormwater inputs and be part of the solution if they are aware of the problem.
Furthermore, it is also critical that the public develop an understanding of the benefits of reducing CSOs. The waterways in the Portland area contribute to the character of the city, particularly the Willamette River that flows along side downtown. Eventually, the actions of citizens and the City to reduce CSOs will lead to a cleaner water and healthier ecosystems on the Willamette River.
To meet this need, OMSI created an exhibition that presents visitors with information addressing the following questions:
1. What are combined sewers and why do they overflow?
2. Why do we have combined sewers in Portland?
3. Why are CSOs a problem and what will be the benefits of reducing them?
4. What actions are being taken to solve the problem?
The exhibition, displayed at OMSI, is 500 square feet and located on the 2nd floor in the Earth Science Hall. The exhibit includes 3-4 interactive components, a multi-media component, and graphic panels that present the appropriate maps and background photos.