Once again we have a situation in which the city of Portland, Oregon dumped all the water in its reservoir, all 38 million gallons of it, because cameras seemed to show that someone has urinated into it. After observing the group of five young men near the reservoir, police went out there and arrested three of the men and charged one of them.
This is not the first time this has happened. Three years ago the city dumped 8 million gallons after another man urinated into it. In 2008, a man and a woman were caught skinny dipping in the reservoir but oddly enough, the water wasn’t dumped then.
The 18-year old accused of the act this time denies that he did it and furthermore is incredulous at the city’s response, saying that the reservoir contains all manner of dead animals.
There is something irrational about our ideas about what is clean and unclean. I drink water straight out of the faucet though I know that it comes from Lake Erie and spends time in containment tanks for purification purposes and then passes through ancient pipes before reaching the home. Who knows what is in it? In our minds we all know that the water contains impurities and urine is probably one of the least harmful since it consists mostly of water anyway, even leaving aside the fact that millions of gallons of water will dilute almost any accidental impurity to levels that are undetectable.
This is one of those situations where it is better not to think too deeply about it or to realize that we cannot, and indeed should not, live in an antiseptic world. And yet this kind of thing still freaks people out, even people who should know better like the Portland Bureau administrator who gave the order to dump all the water.