The Great Portland Flush

In our continuing series of thorny policy issues, here’s one from the great northwest.  The city of Portland flushed millions of gallons of treated drinking water because a man urinated in it.  Does that seem reasonable? Or is it a wee bit crazy?

Here’s the abbreviated story from the NYT.

Portland is disposing of eight million gallons of drinking water because a man was caught on camera urinating in a reservoir. Water from the city’s five open-air reservoirs goes directly to customers. A city official said he did not want to serve water with urine in it.

Critics call that an overreaction, saying animals routinely defecate and urinate in the reservoirs and sometimes die in them. Health officials say that urine is sterile in healthy people and that the urine was so diluted it posed little health risk.

Officials say it will cost the system’s customers less than $8,000 to treat it as sewage. The 21-year-old man caught on camera has not been charged.

I will spend the next year trying to figure out how to make this into a final exam question.

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