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Imponderable #8: Mt. Tabor Oregon

27 Jul

July 27, 2011

Doesn’t Portland have a filtration system in their reservoir? Actually, it does not, which seems a little reckless when you consider that they had an e coli scare in 2009 and everyone was told to boil their water. It seems that the unfiltered nature of the water was an unspoken secret that only came to light in 2008 when a pair of skinny dippers were found having fun in the water.

It is a fact, admitted by the Water Bureau administrator, that crap gets into the water supply all the time. I am not even talking about illegal dumping or anything man-made, I am talking about dead animals, sick fish, ground toxins, and yes, animal waste and pee. That is a fact and it is assumed and even expected. Strangely, rather than a way to treat or filter the water, which may be expensive but would be practical since it could be done at one central location as water leaves the reservoir, the city floated plans to cover the reservoir, at a cost of $500 million.

According to The Big Book of Boy Stuff by Bart King, an average man pees about 1 to 2 quarts per day. So assuming the drunk peed the limit, that would make 2 quarts of pee diluted in 7.2 million gallons of water. Or 1 quart of pee to every 14.4 million quarts of water. That means that every quart of water from that reservoir would be 1/14,400,000 pee. In other words, that is 6.944 X 10 to the power of -8 percent. This is far, far less than the proverbial drop in the bucket. It is a molecule in the bucket.

Compare this to the FDA guidelines for peanut butter. BEWARE, this is disgusting. The FDA allows an average of 30 or more insect fragments per 100 grams and an average of 1 or more rodent hairs per 100 grams. That makes the drunk peeing in the reservoir positively hygienic by comparison.

So is the Water Bureau administrator over-reacting? After all, the two people who skinny dipped in the reservoir didn’t cause him to dump the water, and who knows what kind of bodily fluids they released?

In this era of droughts is it wise to dump 7.2 million gallons of water?

In this economic climate is it wise to waste $35,000 to dump effectively clean water? I admit that no, I don’t want to be drinking anyone’s pee, but at one part per fourteen million I don’t think I am. Consider that the EPA allows up to 7 asbestos fibers per liter of water. Asbestos is a known carcinogen.

Is one quart of human pee worse than the probably thousands of quarts of animal pee and possibly infected waste that goes into the reservoir?

Granted that the reservoir is in the middle of public parkland, how many people have already peed in the water over the years?

The question is Imponderable.

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