Portland Flushes 38 Million Gallons Of Reservoir Water After Teenager Pees In It, So, Um, Don't Do That
How's this for some very weird local news: On Wednesday April 16 at around 1 a.m., a 19-year-old urinated in the Mount Tabor number 5 reservoir in Portland, Oregon through the iron fence surrounding it. And because the 19-year-old urinated in the reservoir, Portland officials will now drain all 38 million gallons of water from it. To get a sense of how much water that is, an average swimming pool contains 20,000 gallons of water, and so draining this reservoir would amount to draining 1,900 swimming pools.
Accompanied by two friends — who then tried to trespass over the iron fence — the teen was got caught in the act by Water Bureau security personnel who identified him on tape. All three young men have been cited for trespassing, and the 19-year-old for public urination.
What was the reasoning behind this decision? “Even though there is very minimal public health risk, the bottom line is that our commitment is to serve water that’s clean, cold and constant,” Water Bureau administrator David Shaff told The Oregonian. “That doesn’t include pee. Not from people, at least.”
Portland officials have also, for some reason, released the video of the teenager urinating into the reservoir. Watch it here (you know, if you want to).
At around 0:44 you'll see three young men on their own walking toward the reservoir. At around 2:13, you can see one of the young men standing suspiciously close to the iron fence (and, presumably, urinating). At around 3:42, the young men attempt to climb the fence.
Did officials release this video to further justify their decision to drain the reservoir? We're not sure. What we do know is that even though the thought of urine in our water doesn't sound pleasant, the sound of 38 million gallons of water being drained — and lost — doesn't sound great either, and neither does the fact that draining the water and cleaning up the reservoir will cost a total of $35,000.
Additionally, it's important to point out that the officials admitted animals frequently urinate in the reservoir, too — it's just different when the water is "deliberately tainted," said the officials.
"It's easy to replace those 38 million gallons of water," Shaff told The Oregonian. "We're not in the arid Southwest; we're not in drought-stricken parts of Texas or Oklahoma."
Meanwhile, immediately south, California has had one of the worst droughts in over 100 years, with several rural areas desperate for drinking water.
Other groups have called out Portland officials' decision, including Floy Jones, the co-founder of Friends of the Reservoirs, who called the decision "wasteful" and useless, considering that officials hadn't determined the urine had actually come into contact with the water, and even if it had, the water wouldn't cause health risks.