Flusher in chief: Portland’s top water bureaucrat can’t tolerate human waste

Special to WorldTribune.com

By Wes Pruden

Portland, Ore., is a nice place to live. Nothing much happens there, and that’s its charm. Oregon is perhaps the most politically correct of the 50 states, shading even Massachusetts, and Reservoir 5 of the Portland water system is a monument to the work of the weenie bureaucrat. …

Photo by Randy L. Rasmussen/The Oregonian/Landov
Photo by Randy L. Rasmussen/The Oregonian/Landov

Tragedy struck Portland again last week at Reservoir No. 5, this time by a teenage terrorist armed with a bladder of death and destruction, or at least 8 ounces of annoying but harmless urine. It was shock and awe all over again at the Portland water department. …

David Shaff, the administrator of the Portland Water Bureau, quickly ordered the reservoir drained, all 38 million gallons of the stuff the San Joaquin Valley hundreds of miles south would kill for. Tests showed the water was actually clear and clean, with no traces of urine, but Mr. Shaff was not thinking about public safety. It was all about marketing. …

Figuring that a typical urination — let’s keep this clinical — by a healthy teenager would deliver 1/8 of a gallon of pee, and dumped into a reservoir of 38 million gallons of water, amount to 3 parts per billion. That’s gross and unpleasant for the squeamish to think about, but statistically irrelevant. The Environmental Protection Agency (good for some things) limit for arsenic in drinking water (there’s always arsenic occurring naturally) is 10 parts per billion. Urine contains no arsenic, but a lot of nitrogen. The EPA limit for nitrates in drinking water is 10,000 parts per billion, and a healthy teenager would have to pee in the reservoir 3,333 times. (Don’t count him out.)


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