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June 29th, 2011 MARTY SMITH | Dr. Know
 

Dr. Know: Pissed Off

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So the City of Portland drained 7.8 million gallons of Bull Run goodness from Mount Tabor Reservoir 1 because some asshat from Molalla peed in it? Fine. But where does all that water go when it’s drained? —Jay Pee

I don’t know what bad things Water Bureau Commissioner Randy Leonard did in his previous life, but the indignities he’s suffered as the Aquaman of the City Council Superfriends must have erased his karmic debt by now.

Not only did some random dude piss, almost literally, in the Bureau’s Wheaties, dude did so at exactly the moment when Leonard et al. were trying to convince the feds that storing our drinking water in uncovered reservoirs is Totally Not a Big Deal.

In answer to your question (before I forget; you know what I’m like), the water drains into the regular sewer system. They have to do this slowly, and when it’s not raining, to make sure the system doesn’t overflow into the Willamette, but it’s not a big deal. Also, the 7.8 million gallons, though it sounds like a lot, represents only about one-fifteenth of Portland’s daily water usage.

That said, everyone agrees that, from a public-health standpoint, we could have just let it mellow: given the volume of the reservoir, the amount of urine solids in your water would’ve been about 4 parts per billion.

“But, ooh, ick—it’s pee!” you squeal, and it’s true. It’s also true that every time you smell something unpleasant in a public restroom, you’re inhaling a higher concentration of actual human shit particles—in your nose, down your throat—than would have been found in the water from the tainted pond. Yum.

Moreover, since urine is normally sterile, it shouldn’t get any germs in the water at all. If somehow it did—well, that’s why God invented whiskey.

 
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