Portland - The tape was rolling when a 19-year-old Portland, Oregon man leaned into a rail fence and emptied his bladder into a Water Bureau reservoir filled with drinking water.
Officials, upon seeing the event on security video, decided the wisest thing to do would be to discard the water, all 38 million gallons of it, according to reports out Wednesday.
"The basic commandment of the Water Bureau is to provide clean, cold and constant water to its customers," bureau administrator David Shaff said Wednesday. "And the premise behind that is we don't have pee in it."
Water stored in open reservoirs like the one used as a urinal in Portland have already been processed and are pumped directly to consumers. According to Shaff, the man’s pee did not likely represent a threat to consumers as it is not uncommon for birds and other wildlife to deposit biological waste in such reservoirs.
"There is at least a perceived difference from my perspective," Shaff said. "I could be wrong on that, but the reality is our customers don't anticipate drinking water that's been contaminated by some yahoo who decided to pee into a reservoir."
In case there are environmentalists concerned about wasting 38 million gallons of drinking water, it is important to note that water-quality test samples are due back Thursday after which the water will be pumped into the city’s sewage system where it will eventually be treated before being dumped into the Columbia River.
In the meantime, Shaff said the city has plenty of water to meet demand because the area receives an abundance of rain and replacing the water is not a problem.
The city's decision to flush was criticized by some, including Floy Jones, co-founder of the group Friends of the Reservoirs, who said there's no evidence any urine reached the water and it wouldn't harm anyone if it did.
"It's extremely wasteful," said Jones
The kidney-shaped reservoir constructed in 1911 is drained for cleaning twice a year. The spring draining was accomplished just a few weeks ago, the Water Bureau said.
New federal regulations require treated drinking water to be stored underground and the city is in the process of building new facilities.
Video shows three unidentified men trespassing at the reservoir. The three were cited for trespassing and banned from Mount Tabor Park where the incident occurred.
In addition, the 19-year-old was cited for public urination and the Multnomah County district attorney’s office is considering whether to press criminal charges.
The reservoir is one of five the city is in the process of replacing with underground storage to comply with federal regulations.
The 19-year-old accused of peeing in the city's drinking water was sentenced to community service.