Portland Dumps 8 Million Gallons Of Treated Water After Man Urinates In Reservoir

Portland officials were shocked this week when a security camera captured a man urinating in a city reservoir of treated drinking water. Others were equally shocked by the city’s response — it flushed 8 million gallons of water down the drain.

The culprit is was Josh Seater, 21, who said he had been drinking and “I had a pleasant buzz.” Nevertheless, he admitted that “I knew I did wrong when I did it” particularly when an officer came running toward him.

A pint of urine diluted in 8 million gallons would seem to present little threat to human health, particularly since an open reservoir presumably has far greater amounts of bird droppings and even dead animals falling into it. I have never been a supporter of the view that “the solution to pollution is dilution” — a view that supports dumping in the oceans by calculating their “receiving capacity.” However, this seems worse for the environment to treat such a huge quantity of water and then dispose of it over the unpleasant thought of the fouling of the waters.

Notably, the reservoirs are drained twice a year to remove everything from paint cans to animal carcasses.

City Commissioner Randy Leonard, however, insists that there was a potential public health risk created by Seater.

There would be an interesting question presented by the response of the city if Seater is charged. If he is charged criminally, the city could demand restitution. It could also sue him civilly for the costs. Treating the water cost $8000 and the water itself is valued at $28,000. That would be a charge of $36,000. Yet, most experts would presumably say that the dumping of the water was an entirely unnecessary and extreme response. IF so, should Seater be responsible for the cost? This would be a akin to someone denting a car only to have the owner take the car to an auto yard to be crushed in response.

Besides, if it is any solace to the Portland citizens, he was drinking Coors, which is mainly water anyway.

Nevertheless, the court may conclude that, while extreme, the city was well within its rights to dispense with the water to assure its customers about the purity of its water supply. That would make this a very expensive night out for Josh Seater, who is unemployed.

He could face a misdemeanor charge.

Source: AP

19 thoughts on “Portland Dumps 8 Million Gallons Of Treated Water After Man Urinates In Reservoir”

  1. All water is recycled piss, if you look at it at the molecular level. Statistically speaking, every person on earth, right now, has atoms in their bodies that once passed through Albert Einstein. The issue is whether one leak in a reservoir can harm public health. Not likely. Urine is usually sterile, except in cases of bladder infection. And the water would presumably be disinfected (probably by chlorination) before distribution, so no danger of spreading infection. As for the chemical content of the urine – diluted in 8 million gallons: harmless.

    It happens that for some kinds of pollutants, Professor, dilution is a perfectly appropriate solution. Take seawater, for example. Drink enough of it, straight, and it’s a poison. Dilute it sufficiently and add sweetener, and you have a natural Gatorade. Come to think of it, even fresh water can be harmful if you drink too much of it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_intoxication.

  2. Mike –

    You took the words right out of my head.

    My brother has managed restaurants for years, and the first time he informed me there was actually public health phrases like “acceptable levels of filth” in food, I nearly fell over.

  3. Even though the response is a bit extreme indeed, I wouldn’t throw stones at them. Even though logic dictates there is no danger, most people are not driven by logic and would be extremely upset by such tainted water. Compensating for the psychological distress could end up being worse than renewing the whole water.

    Of course, this does not include concerns such the waste of valuable resources and the possible consequences (drought, lower water quality, etc).

  4. “A quart is a hell of a piss!”


    Never underestimate the power of Flomax.

  5. rafflaw,

    Decades ago, I had a patient who could fill multiple urinals… Someone had tossed him down an elevator shaft (4 levels) and his only visible injury was a broken leg… There’s more, but someone might recognize him… 🙂

  6. Q: was it the potentual health hazard or the risk of litigation that caused the City to act?

  7. Let me get this straight. A certain percentage of rat feces is allowed in hot dogs, but a quart of urine in 8 millions gallons of water is a health hazard?

  8. I recently poste4d about this as well:

    Waste not; want not.

    It’s all about the yuk factor. Americans don’t want to eat bugs either. Or they’ll spend tens of thousands of dollars draining an open air, million gallon water supply because somebody urinated in it, (never mind the constant exposure to bat and bird shit or general air pollutants of infinite variety). Astronauts recycle their urine and sweat as drinking water.
    Here’s another form of it:


    This is basically the same thing. Would I eat it? If I was hungry for meat and it cost the same, sure. Better than feeding a cow and killing it.

    As far as this draining the water supply episode…the one(s) who made the decision to drain it should be held liable, not the the leaker.

  9. I suppose he watched one way too may episodes of Petticoat Junction….where the girls are swimming in the water Reservoir….

    Seems a little excessive to me….Maybe they should come talk to Haliburton about how to properly treat ground water and not be liable….

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