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Portland's $35,000 Pee Incident The Dumbest (and Costliest) Overreaction to Peeing In Public

What's the dumbest (and costliest) overreaction to one man peeing in public? Just go ahead and waste 8 million gallons of water.

This is one expensive case of public urination. Portland is draining an 8-million-gallon reservoir because a 21 year-old man was caught on camera peeing in it. Is the $35,000 it costs to drain, clean, and refill the reservoir worth it? Is it worth wasting 8 million gallons of water? No. Not from a public safety perspective anyway.

Urine is pretty chemically inert and generally safe. Even if it weren't, one man's worth of pee in a lake that large would be a proverbial drop in the bucket. But, health precaution isn't the issue in this case. It's yuckiness.

David Shaff of the Portland Water Bureau defended his decision to KATU. "I think just dealing with the yuck factor, I can imagine how many people would be saying I made orange juice with that water. That's not what I want to hear."

He doesn't close reservoirs when animals pee in them, or die in them. Nor presumably when humans pull off the nefarious bathroom act outside the seeing eye of surveillance cameras. But this one was caught on tape.

portland reservoir

The larger issue though, is whether public reservoirs should be covered to prevent acts of terrorism. That's a costly solution to a frightening, but remote problem, and one that local officials are hotly debating. This case is getting big press because Portland has an expensive plan to cover reservoirs in the next few years—covers that, presumably, would have prevented this pee incident from happening in the first place and saved the city a $35,000 tab.

And of the guilty party? The peeing man told the Oregonian, "I didn't mean to show disrespect. I thought this was a sewage treatment plant." He also told KATU he "feels bad." Here's the KATU video report with that and a bit more from Shaff.


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