Portland's Draining An Entire Reservoir Because One Dude Peed In It

Illustration for article titled Portlands Draining An Entire Reservoir Because One Dude Peed In It

Urine trouble, Portland. Thirty-eight million gallons of treated, ready-to-drink water will be flushed into the Columbia River after a teenager peed in a city reservoir.

The incident happened early Wednesday morning. At least one teenager was seen on a surveillance camera as he peed through the wrought-iron fence that surrounds the Mt. Tabor Reservoir, which is located in a park east of downtown. Two other teenagers were caught trying to scale the fence. They were all cited for trespassing, and the pisser cited for public urination.

Amidst outcry from environmentalists, Water Bureau Administrator David Shaff defended the move to drain the water: "The reality is our customers don't anticipate drinking water that's been contaminated by some yahoo who decided to pee into a reservoir."


The crazier thing (could it get crazier?) is that this is actually not the first time this has happened to poor Pee-D-X. In 2011, 21-year-old Josh Seater did the same thing at the same reservoir, causing the city to drain over eight million gallons of drinking water. "I had a pleasant buzz and I should have known better," Seater told the police officer who caught him on a surveillance camera.

A dribble of pee is seriously a few drops in the bucket—birds do all sorts of unspeakably grody things to the drinking water in open reservoirs, for example. But this kind of episode—in addition to serious threats like terrorism—is one of the reasons that many cities are being required to take their open-air reservoirs offline.

Still, is Portland over-reacting just a little? After the 2011 incident, Shaff himself admitted to reporters that it wasn't really an issue of public safety. "More likely than not a tiny bit of urine in eight million gallons of water isn't going to hurt anybody," he said. So is there really any reason to spend all this money to flush it?

Hey, at least they live in a place where the water will be replenished relatively quickly. If this happened in drought-stricken Southern California, we'd be drinking that pee, dammit—whether we want to or not. [AP]


AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

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Sooo... urine is 95% water, and let's say this guy had a lot to drink and he was pissing about half a gallon into the reservoir (way more than the average). So that's 0.025 gallons of contaminants (ingredients that make urine urine). My calculation comes out to 0.00066 parts per million as being urine ingredients, or 0.000000064%

Chlorine in water is usually around 2 to 3 PPM, or more than 3,000 times the concentration of this guy's urine after dilution.

All this is to say that - yes, Portland overreacted.