The Mt. Tabor Reservoir Number 1 holds 8 million gallons of treated drinking water, which it provides to the residents nearby Portland, Oregon. A human bladder, at its fullest, holds around 16 ounces of urine. So, when a young man was caught on a surveillance camera releasing those few ounces of pee into said reservoir, how do you think the green-living, conservation-obsessed city of Portland reacted?
It flushed all 8 million gallons of treated drinking water down the drain. The city ordered the discharge, and the ill-fated pee break is going to cost some $34,000. Which probably makes it one of the more expensive urination sessions to have graced Portland recently. But what amuses me most is the fact that even now, when we understand so well the composition of things like urine -- specifically, that it's almost certainly entirely, absolutely harmless in such minuscule quantities (and typically, in any quantity, since urine is sterile in healthy people) -- we're so quick to dispose of perfectly good resources so as not to offend anyone's delicate sensibilities.
urine is sterile in healthy people and ... the urine in the reservoir was so diluted - perhaps a quarter of a litre in millions of litres - that it posed little risk. Some people in the city, in the suburbs and around the world called the flush an overreaction, especially since animals such as ducks contribute waste routinely and, sometimes, die in the water.I think that comment's pretty apt, as it reflects how deeply ingrained our sense of propriety is, and how we continue to let it dictate decision-making, even in a presumably progressive place like Portland.
'More than 1 billion people worldwide do not have reliable access to clean drinking water, and here we are tossing away nearly 8 million gallons of water just to appease the ignorant residents who believe their tap water will otherwise turn yellow,' read one comment posted on The Oregonian's Website.
That 8 million gallons were dumped for no good reason isn't really all that big of a deal. But it's still a reminder of how quickly we Americans -- who feel deeply entitled to extreme degrees of sterility and sanitation -- are willing to jettison our "green" ways when something grosses us out.