Portland to Flush Peed-In Reservoir

38 million gallons of urine trouble

Apr 17, 2014
Outside Magazine
Public urination made a splash in Portland news for the second time in three years.

Public urination made a splash in Portland news for the second time in three years.    chapsss/ThinkStock

Boys, the world is not your bathroom.

A 19-year-old Portland man's decision to urinate in the city's Mount Tabor Reservoir 5 pushed the city to flush all 38 million gallons of it.  

On April 16, a security officer noticed a group of young men trespassing in the reservoir. In addition to climbing the fence and taking selfies, video footage of the incident shows one man getting a little too comfortable at the edge of the water.

"When you see the video, he's leaning right up because he has to get his little wee-wee right up to the iron bars. There's really no doubt what he's doing," Water Bureau administrator David Shaff said in an interview with the Oregonian. "It's stupid. You can see the sign that says, 'This is your drinking water. Don't spit, throw, toss anything in it.'" The three offenders were issued citations.

Water Bureau officials quickly took the water supply offline and are planning to test the water for contaminants today. Shaff said he doesn't think the incident yielded a public health risk, but the bureau will flush the reservoir during the course of the week and again in a month as a precaution.

"The bottom line is that our commitment is to serve water that's clean, cold, and constant," Shaff said. "That doesn’t include pee. Not from people, at least."

The draining, roughly a 17 percent depletion of the city's drinking water reserve capacity, marks the second time Reservoir 5 has been emptied as a result of urination. Portland emptied 7.8 million gallons of water when a man, assuming he was at a sewage treatment plant, peed into the reservoir in 2011. 

Water Bureau representative Tim Hall told Outside that he's not at all concerned about drinking water shortages. According to Hall, at least one of the city's reservoirs is already empty. 

"We're fortunate enough to have an abundance of water," he said. "We have the ability to not have to rely on our reservoirs."

For the time being, we suggest not relying on Portland's reservoirs either.

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