This photo taken June 29, 2011 shows Portland's reservoir No. 6 in Mount Tabor Park in Portland, Ore.
Rick Bowmer/AP

Oregon dumps millions of gallons of urine-tainted drinking water


Oregon officials are dumping 38 million gallons of drinking water after surveillance video captured a 19-year-old man urinating into an open reservoir.

And it’s not even the first time this has happened.

The security camera footage shows the man urinating through a fence surrounding the Mt. Tabor Reservoir No. 5 in Southeast Portland Wednesday, just after 1 a.m. Minutes later, two other men, ages 18 and 19, tried to scale the fence into the reservoir. Only one was successful.

All three men were cited for trespassing, with the 19-year-old recieving a public urination citation for getting caught with his fly down. Officials will be reviewing the surveillance video to consider whether the men will be charged with a crime.

Residents won’t be drinking pee-tainted water anytime soon, however. The public health risk is slight, Portland Water Bureau Administrator David Shaff said in a statement, after tests came back “clean” Thursday. But the bureau announced it would still dump the 38-million gallons of drinking water and replace it with fresh supplies. 

“Our customers have an expectation that their water is not deliberately contaminated. We have the ability to meet that expectation while minimizing public health concerns,” Shaff said. “We will continue to provide our customers with safe, clean and cold Bull Run water.”

Almost the exact same incident happened just three years ago, once again in Portland. Officials drained almost 8 million gallons of drinking water after a man was caught on camera taking a whiz into a reservoir. The public urination cost the water bureau as much as $28,500 in lost revenue, local news reported, on top of $7,500 in disposal costs.

The incident raises safety questions beyond the negligible public health concerns of pee-tainted water, considering how easy it was for the men to contaminate thousands of gallons of public drinking water. In 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency required all U.S. communities to store water in covered reservoirs. Portland is in the process of complying with the rule, officials said, and the reservoir targeted this week will be permanently disconnected by the end of next year.


Oregon dumps millions of gallons of urine-tainted drinking water