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. Greg

    Living in Portland, I know there is another side to this story not being told. The city is considering covering these reservoirs. The public is not on board because of the extreme cost. The city will drain this reservoir at tax payer expense to try and show tax payers why they must cover their reservoirs. The city couldn't be happier that someone urinating in the reservoir is in the spotlight. With this example, the city can begin draining wallets as well.

    June 16, 2011 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Neil

      It's really not the City of Portland that wants to cover them. It's the EPA that's enforcing the requirement. The city has thus far put up a pretty good fight. Portland water is some of the best I've ever tasted and with the exception of last year's Washington Park reservoir fiasco, there have been no issues in recent memory. As of September when I left, plans were already underway to cover them and the temporary "band-aid" to remain in compliance was to run all reservoir water through UV filters before getting to consumers.

      June 16, 2011 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
    • junior

      Probably a union employee doing the deed, to justify their existance and to ensure union bosses continue to collect their dues.

      June 16, 2011 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  2. RichieP

    Seriously? Drinking water just sits out there in a pond in the woods? That's gross enough without one dude peeing in it.

    June 16, 2011 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • te

      Seriously? Where do you think ALL drinking water comes from? The lakes typically which are full of fish, snakes, turtles, ducks, people,etc. Do you truly believe they all get out and use the public restroom?

      June 16, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  3. Jay in NC

    How many animals drink, pee and use the water each day. Get real, the city manager should be fired. The guy did wrong, but the water was not in danger.

    June 16, 2011 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mark

    Why is it an open reservoir?

    June 16, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
    • z!

      Because almost all pre-treatment reservoirs are uncovered. There is no reason -to- cover them.

      June 16, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  5. Snacklefish

    Thankfully Mr. Shaff didn't pick 'making lemonade' as an example. But you know he was thinking it.

    June 16, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  6. Megatron

    These Water Bureau idiots need to be fired and executed. The "yuck" factor? These morons sound like they're 5 years old. "Ewwww! Cooties in my water!" Sometimes I really hate people...

    June 16, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  7. svann

    Does Portland know what bears do in the woods?

    June 16, 2011 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  8. Patrick Conner

    Dear God, what fools these mortals be. Why must our civic authorities pander to ignorance? O, I remember. That's how they got into office.

    June 16, 2011 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  9. jerseygirl

    Seriously people. The water is processed after it is "sitting out there in a pond." That's why the one gentleman mentioned that other natural contaminants could enter the water as well but it's clean when it gets to the tap. Good God what a waste of time, money and water.

    June 16, 2011 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  10. RRR

    The solution to polution is dilution!

    June 16, 2011 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  11. Tracie

    Is anyone really looking at this video? Unless this guy can pee in a 20 foot stream, my guess is that it never made it to the water.. .... LOOK AGAIN.

    June 16, 2011 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  12. LizBeth

    San Antonio, TX is currently under Stage 2 water restrictions, and, due to the oppresive heat, will be moving to Stage 3 in the next few days. In Texas, we have lost millions of acres in wildfires this year alone. What we wouldn't give for a 8 million gallon reservoir of water.

    June 16, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  13. Keepin' It 4 Real


    June 16, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  14. Smarter than RichieP

    Hey Richie, pretty much all water just sits out in the open before you drink it. You think it all comes from undergound tanks? Unless you have well water, this is what you get. And that's why it's cleaned first.

    June 16, 2011 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  15. Mimi

    That's what I was thinking! OK, it's chlorinated BEFORE it gets here, then sits outside for , oh, long enough....then goes straight to your tap? C'mon.......if that's the case, then I agree with Greg that this is a stunt to draw attention.
    That said, if I lived in Portland and this was MY drinking water? I'd be screaming to cover them up too! It's a bit hinky for sure.

    June 16, 2011 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
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