When I first heard this story, I thought it was a joke, but it turns out that it is very real. Officials in Portland, Oregon, drained a reservoir, at an expense of roughly $125,000, because a teenager urinated into the water. This is irrational worry run amuck. I would really like to hear the official explanation from the person who made this decision. All I've heard so far is that they couldn't take any chances with the health of the population. Really? And what chance would they be taking? Urine emerging from the bladder contains essentially no bacteria. It might pick some up as it exits through the urethra, but this is irrelevant.
Also irrelevant are the urea, nitrates and phosphates, the various minerals and numerous organic compounds found in urine in trace amounts. Indeed urine is quite drinkable. Just ask the folks who practice "autourine therapy." They claim, without any evidence of course, that drinking urine has all sorts of health benefits. They write articles and hold conferences where instead of coffee breaks they have, get this, urine breaks. Presumably it is their own urine they are refreshing themselves with. While there is no benefit to this, there is no danger either. There are very few diseases that can be transmitted through urine, thyphoid fever being one. But even if the urinator had typhoid, dilution in the reservoir would take care of the problem.
Have these water treatment officials in Portland considered what happens in swimming pools? I suspect there is a fair amount of urine tainted water being consumed there. If you want to worry about bodily excretions in water, focus on fecal matter. How about poop from birds flying over that reservoir? Or geese landing in the water. How about ducks? And I suspect there may be a variety of other animals that relieve themselves in the water as well.
There is nothing that could be present in a person’s urine that could warrant emptying the reservoir. In fact I don’t believe there is any substance that when dissolved in an amount of water equal to one pee could cause harm when added to the water in a reservoir. Even something as toxic as ricin would not be an issue. It is hardly soluble in water, and in any case manifests its toxicity when inhaled, not when ingested. The most poisonous substance known is botulism toxin. A single gram of crystalline toxin, evenly dispersed and inhaled, would kill more than 1 million people! But as far as water goes, no cases of waterborne botulism have ever been reported. I think the citizens of Portland who will be paying for this nonsense through tax dollars have a right to be peeved. In my opinion, the manager responsible for wasting all that water and money should be fired. The teenage culprit has been identified and he will have to be doing his peeing elsewhere. He has been banned for a month from the park where the reservoir is located. Citizens of Portland must be relieved.