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. Melpie

    EWW!! That water just sits there outdoors with no lid or anythign on it to keep things out? Seriously, animals probably drink and bathe in that water. And people are worried about a little bit of urine? Umm, call me crazy but I won't even drink water that I've left outside for a few days let alone a huge exposed reservoir. Yuck! And for the amount of money to spend to empty it couldn't they have just re-filtered it or something? This whole situation is just un-hygienic.

    June 20, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • JD

      This is a classic example of ignorance responding to ignorance. I'm so angry about this waste of a precious resource I could scream. We're using our fresh water faster than the hydrologic cycle is replacing it- that means we're running out! And the supposedly enlightened city of Portland wastes 8 MILLION gallons. I am absolutely appaled. It is NOT a hygeine issue- water treatment methods (not to mention the dilution factor) address this as well as all the animals that use the water. Don't forget the pollen, dust, and the host of pollutants that trickle down the banks into the reservoirs all over the country every day. Americans need to start paying attention to important things instead of the 'yuck factor'.

      June 22, 2011 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
  2. danwat1234

    What a huge over-reaction. Who cares if 1 person pees in MILLIONS of gallons of water! It doesn't matter. What does concern me is all the bird pee/poo and dead animals in that water..

    A huge waist of money.

    June 20, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. heather

    Portland doesn't want to do it, the EPA is requiring it because they are trying force Portland into covering the the lake. And they are requiring uva filters. Which is sunlight, which a cover would block. They want Portland to put a roof on it and buy and run machines to sunlight on it. This is nothing more than the federal government harressing Portland. If they are worried about terrorists then Home Land Security money should be paying for all that. We need to get a hand on our federal government.
    Am I saying it loud enough?

    June 20, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lucky

      You said it loud enough Heather> But there are a lot of deaf and dump people. Especially in goverment.

      The movie Idiocracy starring Luke Wilson Seems to make more and more sense ..

      June 21, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vigla

      Oh, quit whining about the big bad government. Without it, you'd still be living in the dark ages...

      June 21, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • JD

      Beware to those who think our government is the answer and the lifter of the Dark Ages: Thomas Jefferson's said: "A government big enough to give you everything you need, is a government big enough to take away."

      June 22, 2011 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  4. Kim Harloff

    Next time you and your family, or friends, go swimming, whether it be in a private pool, public pool, or pond, I want you to remember all the "Yummy' items you will be ingesting: Urine, Poop, Hair, Mites, Skin Flakes, Scabs, Menstrual Fluid, Blood, Mucus, Sweat, That Stick Stuff on the bottom of Feet, Toe and Finger Nail Jam, Decayed food expelled from mouths, Tooth Crud, and let's not forget all-time favorite, Fart Gas!

    Now remember all those Yummy Ingredients the next time you dive into a pool and wonder, what did I just ingest?

    If you really believe that chlorine has killed those materials, then prove it; dip a glass into the pool, or reservoir and drink it ... cheers!

    And you're worried about a little spilled urine in the reservoir ... how silly! LOL

    June 20, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Stoopid

    And Americans wonder why the rest of the world thinks they're stupid 😀

    June 21, 2011 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Zachary

      And you're from where?

      June 21, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jeff

    The individual who made the decision to drain the reservoir at a cost of $35,000 to taxpayers should be flogged. Urine is sterile to begin with, and in 8 million gallons of water would not even be detectable. They should be more concerned about duck poop with giardia and other nasty bacteria. Just another liberal wacko story.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vigla

      Where in this article do you gather it is a "liberal" story? How about this: "You are just another conservative conspiracy theorist...". How's that?

      June 21, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. MJ

    According to TraditionalOven.com, one pint contains 9,463 drops. So one pint of urine into 8 million gallons of water means one drop per 845 gallons; that's the number of gallons a person would have to consume in order to ingest one drop of this man's urine. However keep in mind that urine is 95 percent water. So the dilution factor is one drop of urine chemicals per 16,907 gallons of water. If you drank two gallons of water per day (not easy to do) out of this reservoir, it would take 23 years for you to consume a single drop of urine chemicals from this water. The real story here is that bureaucratic pubic officials chose to spend the public's money to remedy this "problem." They should be flushed with the same vigor they used in flushing the public's money.

    June 21, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • MJ

      Oops, that would be PUBLIC officials, lol.

      June 21, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Alejandro


    June 22, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Medical Laboratory Technician

      Urine is usually sterile while it is within the body. As soon as it leaves the body, it is no longer sterile. It has to touch skin to get out of the body, which is by nature, not sterile.

      June 22, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Stephen Valdes

    how come all those athletes and health nuts advocate drinking urine? something to do with immune system, right?

    June 23, 2011 at 2:08 am | Report abuse |
  10. outawork

    Doesn't the water from this reservoir go through some filtration system before going to someone tap?

    June 27, 2011 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  11. showmerancher

    Judging from the photo, I can't imagine not getting at least 16 oz of animal, bird, fish, frog, snake, etc. feces in that reservoir daily... probably several times that! Is that water not treated before it is piped to the public?

    June 27, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. dion

    AND no one mentioned the fact that is the urine distrubuted evenly molecule to molecule in the reservoir?

    June 27, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Hydrentguy

    Why does the City of Portland have an open potable (drinkable) water reservior? Isn't that against the EPA Drinking water standards? Every other community has to have a covered potable water reservior. If the city of Portland would just comply with the regulations this type of thing wouldn't have happened and the people wouldn't have to worry about all the other contaminants that could get into their drinking water. Where are the State of Oregon Environmental Quality people to make sure that this is a secure site? How did this person get to the site? Doesn't this make you a little unsure of the security of Portlands' drinking water.

    June 29, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Toad

    Just think what fish do in it!

    July 4, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Carl Armbruster

    Most drinking water contains about .5 ppm of Chlorine. That is 1/2 part of chlorine for every million parts of water. If this guy had a full bladder that would be .5 parts of urine for every 128 million parts of water. Lets use a little common sense here. Can't believe it goes straight from an open reservoir where animals drink, bathe, urinate, and defecate and they are worried about a tiny bit of human urine.

    July 5, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
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