PORTLAND, OREGON – The mix of 143 million liters of treated water and one teen’s urine has proven unacceptable to Portland officials who plan to flush away the whole lot — the second time in less than three years the city has gone to such lengths to keep its water pure.
In June 2011, the city drained a 28-million-liter reservoir. This time, water from a different reservoir will be discarded after a 19-year-old was videotaped in the act.
“The basic commandment of the Water Bureau is to provide clean, cold and constant water to its customers,” bureau administrator David Shaff said Wednesday. “And the premise behind that is we don’t have pee in it.”
The open reservoirs hold water that has been treated and goes directly into mains for distribution to customers. The urine poses little risk — animals routinely deposit waste without creating a public health crisis — but the city doesn’t want to serve water that was deliberately tainted.
“There is at least a perceived difference from my perspective,” Shaff said. “I could be wrong on that, but the reality is our customers don’t anticipate drinking water that’s been contaminated by some yahoo who decided to pee into a reservoir.”
Water-quality test samples have been taken from the reservoir, with the results due Thursday. The incident occurred shortly after 1 a.m., when three men were seen on camera at Mount Tabor Reservoir No. 5, with one of them visibly urinating through an iron fence.
Minutes later, two other young men attempted to scale the fence.
The water will be drained into the sewage system, eventually reaching a treatment plant before it’s dumped into the Columbia River. In the meantime, Shaff said the city has plenty of water to meet demand.
The three men, whose names have not been released, were cited for trespassing and excluded from Mount Tabor Park. The 19-year-old was cited for public urination.
Floy Jones, co-founder of the group Friends of the Reservoirs, criticized the decision to drain the reservoir, saying there’s no evidence any urine reached the water and it wouldn’t harm anyone if it did. “It’s extremely wasteful,” she said