Portland draining reservoir after man urinates in it
Portland, Oregon's Mount Tabor reservoir holds 8 million gallons of drinking water.
June 16th, 2011
08:58 AM ET

Portland draining reservoir after man urinates in it

Oregon's Portland Water Bureau is draining an 8 million-gallon reservoir after surveillance cameras caught a man urinating into it this week.

The move will cost the water bureau $35,000 - $28,000 in lost revenue and $7,500 in disposal costs, CNN affiliate KATU-TV reports.

Is that worth it when the urine involved is really a drop in the bucket?

Scientifically, no, said Dave Stone, an assistant professor of toxicology at Oregon State University, who spoke to The Oregonian newspaper about the, er, leak.

"How many animals are doing that or birds?" Stone asked. "I don't want to second-guess the city, but I can't think of anything chemically that would have me be concerned."

Dr. Gary Oxman, a Multnomah County health officer, also told The Oregonian: "The health risk associated with that is really, really tiny."

A healthy bladder holds up to 16 ounces of urine, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Water bureau administrator David Shaff told KATU it's not about the science.

"There are people who will say it’s an overreaction,” he said. “I don’t think so. I think just dealing with the ‘yuck factor,’ I can imagine how many people would be saying, ‘I made orange juice with that water this morning. That’s not what I want to hear.’ ”

And City Commissioner Randy Leonard told CNN affiliate KGW-TV that the water in the Mount Tabor reservoir is chlorinated before it enters the reservoir.

"The water that's in the reservoir that you see is literally the water that you drink," Leonard said.

Sgt. Pete Simpson of the Portland Police Bureau told KGW the whole mess didn't have to be.

"It's really an unfortunate incident that probably could have been avoided had he chosen a bush," Simpson said.

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Filed under: Health • Oregon • Portland
soundoff (748 Responses)
  1. Navyvet8192

    Somebody needed a new toy, so the trumped up billing. C'mon, IT'S WATER!!! Disposal Costs???? Have the Fire Department pump it out, or any volunteer FD with a tanker truck and some spare time! I'd pump it out and down the street for 1/2 that myself!

    June 16, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Olaf Big

    This is sheer BS. Yuck factor? You better think about yuck factor next time you step into a public swimming pool, or hot tub at your favorite resort. That's like a germ broth compared to half a liter urine in an 8 million gallon reservoir. Also, urine is sterile when it leaves healthy bladder (no guarantee that the spout is, of course).

    June 16, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. oneLonelyVoice

    This is ridiculous. It's the dumbing down of Americans. Apparently Oregon does not offer a science curriculum in their schools. We all drink water from reservoirs and streams that have been urinated in by hundreds of animals and many humans who play in the water. The water is treated to be perfectly safe, not to mention diluted to the point of ... why are we even talking about this? Oregon, you are pathetic. If you have ever flushed a toilet in your house you have more contaminants in that glass of water you are holding than you could detect from someone urinating in an 8 million gallon reservoir.

    June 16, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Carmen

    Ok after watching the video, yah its gross that he pee'd in the reservoir but there was a bird swimming in it. If that is the city drinking water why are there birds swimming around in it. That can't be sanitary and I am sure they are pooping and peeing in it too. Also, why are the tax payers paying the stupid decision this 21 year old adult made. Make him get a job and pay for it. He is the one that pee'd in it he should be held accountable for his actions.

    June 16, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Earthling

      There is ZERO risk involved when someone or some animal pees or poops in that reservoir. People have been drinking water with foreign substances in it since the first human took a sip. For Oregon to overreact like this is ridiculous, and for you to insinuate that a bird swimming around in it is somehow dangerously unsanitary is a testament to the failure of our education system.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shtakett

      MAKE him get a job??? Really???

      They should MAKE you watch this video on YouTube: The American Dream

      Still want to work for your government???

      June 16, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Filter?

    So, no filtering is involved when the water that sits around in the reserve is fully exposed to birds, bugs and their droppings? How about dirt, leaves and runoff contamination? Filtering should be happening
    no matter what, which should not only eliminate the sick man's urine, but also all of the other crud that happens to land in the exposed water.

    June 16, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Agreed!

      This is exactly what I thought after reading the article! I don't claim to be an expert in this field, but I was a little surprised by that part of the article.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  6. whitespatula

    There's just gotta be a better way to create new jobs. How many $35K knee-jerk reactions can a city afford?

    June 16, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Are u serious??

    What idoits....

    June 16, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Carolyn Duvall

    Whoever made this decision needs to be fired OR they pay the bill in full!!

    June 16, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Joe

    You made orange juice with that water? Hmm.

    June 16, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  10. grist

    I don't know how much a fence costs. But if they have 35K to spend, use it to build a good fence.

    June 16, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Roscoe Chait

    Isn't urine sterile anyway? I guess I better go drain the pool... And then cover it. And then never let anybody in it.

    June 16, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. oneLonelyVoice

    You want yuck factor? Put a microscope on your pillow, or kitchen sink, or that water fountain you took a drink out of at work. Ignorance is bliss, but half an education is downright dangerous (and very expensive).

    June 16, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. John

    I have been studying reservoirs for years and have completed a thorough analysis of our country's reservoirs and, because of terrorism, I'm genuinely frightened to reveal here what I know about it's unimaginable and inconceivable vulnerabilities. When I finished presenting my report in front of just under 150 people from varying government agencies, I saw just under 150 sincerely concerned people with eyes the size of hens eggs. It's unthinkable how easy it is for any human being to fully adulterate a reservoir with one of the most deadly liquid substances on earth, thereby poisoning an entire city's population. Very few of them have monitoring systems that can detect any one of these substances, let alone all of them (including strychnine, cyanide, anthrax, among dozens of others). There are systems in place to remove natural waste from them, but virtually nothing more than that. I can assure you that a Brita water filter won't save you or your loved one from them. This unhinges and petrifies me infinitely more than virtually any potential terrorist attack, as it should most of you. If a man urinating in a reservoir causes such uproar (when urine is, in fact, perfectly okay to drink), imagine what would happen if someone with a 4oz bottle of deadly liquid pours it into a reservoir and people begin dying by the thousand within hours.

    The only way to combat this is to urge and plead to your local congressmen (or women) of this immense vulnerability and have them take legal action to combat this problem nationwide. If they don't, I can assure everyone reading this that the moment terrorists learn of this vulnerability, they will exploit it.

    June 16, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Earthling

      Nice job telling them about it, John.....

      June 16, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • oneLonelyVoice

      There are countless ways terrorists could kill us, you've managed to find one of them. Now, apply some basic economics and determine the cost to protect us from all the *known* threats. It's not doable. The security we have now is complete window dressing. It is only enough to present a feeling of security, not real security. I could list five ways a terrorist could do unimaginable harm on a budget of 10k or less. The fact is, we live with risk all the time. And I'm okay with that.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alessandro

      That's exactly what's the most disturbing in this story. Put aside the urinating, taxpayers money, birds, bushes, etc. These premises have to be made SAFER. (this is where the money should go into)

      June 16, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brew ha ha

      This is what is most disturbing about this story. Instead of yelling about urine being safe to drink, think about how vulnerable our water supply is, and what would happen if someone dumped a deadly toxin into it. How much toxin would it take to sicken or kill thousands of people? How prepared are we? Reservoirs should be enclosed and under constant surveillance. No one should be allowed to get that close. We are way too complacent.

      June 16, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. SophieCat

    Good grief. All that expense for a few drops of pee? What about when a bird flies over (with a full bowel), WHERE do you think his feces land? In that water. What about when bugs fall in? What about when poisonous berries fall in?

    THIS IS BEYOND CRAZY. IT'S JUST PLAIN STUPID!!!!

    June 16, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Josh

    Not for nothing if the guy chose to pee in the bush next to the water it would eventually arrive in the same water as run off. Stupid especially if the water is treated first. Isn't that the whole point of treating water? Who has $35k to pump water out of a whole in the ground? Yet people are losing their jobs because of stupid people in management.

    June 16, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
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