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Portland Water Feared Tainted by Urine Hasn't Been Flushed

City Water Bureau officials initially said they were going to drain the 36 million gallons after a teen appeared to have urinated into a reservoir.

Drinking water that Portland, Ore., officials feared was tainted with a teenager's urine wasn’t flushed after all. In fact, it's being preserved.

The Portland Water Bureau said Wednesday that the nearly 36 million gallons of water from Mount Tabor Reservoir No. 5 was diverted to empty reservoir No. 6. The transferred water is being kept as part of an experiment: Officials want to see how long its quality — urine aside — can last as the bureau moves to phase out its above-ground reservoirs in 2015, reported NBC affiliate KGW.

“We’ve decided to keep it there to see how long we can keep it clear,” bureau spokeswoman Jaymee Cuti told the station.

During this time, the water won’t be used for human consumption, and could eventually be flushed altogether. Reservoir No. 5 was refilled Saturday.

The bureau’s initial proposal to drain the water grabbed headlines after a 19-year-old was caught on video last month urinating through an iron fence surrounding the pool.

Dallas Swonger and two other trespassers were banned from the park for at least 30 days. Swonger also was cited for public urination and trespassing.

In an interview with news site Vocativ, Swonger said he relieved himself on the reservoir’s wall, and not into the actual water.

Although a test of the water concluded it was safe to drink, officials still decided to begin dumping it into the sewer system. But heavy rains slowed the process, and they moved ahead to divert the water into the empty reservoir.

— Erik Ortiz
Image: Mount Tabor Reservoir Number 5 is seen in Portland, Oregon
Mount Tabor Reservoir Number 5 is seen in Portland, Oregon April 17, 2014. The city is flushing 38 million gallons (143 million liters) of drinking water down the drain because a 19-year-old man urinated in the open reservoir early on Wednesday morning, city water officials said.STEVE DIPAOLA / Reuters