PORTLAND – The Portland Water Bureau decided to “discard” about 38 million gallons of drinking water, after a 19-year-old man was caught urinating into one of the reservoirs, water bureau administrator David Shaff said Wednesday.
A security camera caught the young man urinating through an iron fence into Mt. Tabor Reservoir Number 5, Shaff said. Minutes later, two other men, ages 18 and 19, attempted to scale the fence, and one of them entered the reservoir.
“A Portland Police Bureau officer and Portland Water Bureau ranger quickly responded,” said bureau spokeswoman Jaymee Cuti. “These actions forced the water bureau to immediately take the 50-million gallon Mt. Tabor Reservoir 5 off-line and test for possible contamination.”
The three men were caught and cited for trespassing. The 19-year-old was also cited for public urination. Police were reviewing the surveillance video to determine if there should be additional charges.
Water quality samples were taken from the reservoir Wednesday, but test results won’t be available until Thursday.
Shaff acknowledged the risk was slight, but said the bureau wanted to ensure that no tainted drinking water went out to the public.
"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," said Shaff. "We will continue to provide our customers with safe, clean and cold Bull Run water."
In 2011, eight million gallons of water were dumped from Mt. Tabor Reservoir Number 1 after a 22-year-old Molalla man admitted to urinating in it.
In that case, it cost the water bureau $32,700 rate-payer dollars to drain the reservoir, which caused a wave of backlash from many who said it was an unnecessary response.
Some complained that animals sometimes fall into the reservoir and die, without any such action taken.
In defending that 2011 decision, Shaff said, "I think part of it is just that general yuck factor of, 'Yes, we have birds on there all the time but we don't have people peeing in it all the time.'"
He added that if there was a drought occurring, he probably would've made a different decision.