Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lemming Tracks: Bird Poop, Animal Carcasses, and Dumping 8,000,000 Gallons of Drinking Water

Most folks in America probably realize that it's a bad idea to drink water that's had an animal carcass, or bird poop, in it recently.1 Also that whizzing in the well isn't likely to win you any friends.

Not all countries are the same, as the Lemming's pointed out now and then. Which isn't the same as buying into 19th-century social Darwinism, in the Lemming's opinion. "Different" doesn't necessarily mean "better." "Healthier," maybe.

Water Supplies: Safe and Otherwise

Take these statistics about how many folks in three countries have drinking water that's "improved." "Improved" in this case means folks getting their drinking water from the sort of filtration system, pipes, and water tower that Sauk Centre, Minnesota has, or at least a well that's sort of protected.

"Unimproved" in this list means folks who have to drink out of something like what you find behind dams, or in lakes, ponds, streams, canals or irrigation channels. Or, for those who can afford it, bottled water. Which may or may not have come out of that pond behind the store.
  • United States
    • Improved:
      • Urban: 100% of population
      • rural: 94% of population
      • Total: 99% of population
    • Unimproved:
      • Urban: 0% of population
      • Rural: 6% of population
      • Total: 1% of population (2008)2
  • India
    • Improved:
      • Urban: 96% of population
      • Rural: 84% of population
      • Total: 88% of population
    • Unimproved:
      • Urban: 4% of population
      • Rural: 16% of population
      • Total: 12% of population (2008)2
  • Haiti
    • Improved:
      • Urban: 71% of population
      • Rural: 55% of population
      • Total: 63% of population
    • Unimproved:
      • Urban: 29% of population
      • Rural: 45% of population
      • Total: 37% of population (2008)2
If you're expecting the Lemming to rant about how one party is absolutely vile for making Americans drink tainted water, and this would never happen if another party was in office - you haven't been reading this blog very often.

Apathetic Lemming of the North isn't a political blog. (Curious about what the Lemming is? Read "About the Lemming." Or, not: your choice.)

The Lemming's none too happy about folks living in places like in Haiti making do with none-too-adequate conditions - and that's another topic, mostly for another blog:

Animal Carcasses and Bird Poop in the Drinking Water? Sure: Why Not?

You'll notice that in those three countries, folks living in cities have better odds of having "improved" drinking water. The Lemming figures that's at least partly because it's easier to build water towers and run pipes to where folks live - if you've got a lot of folks living close to each other. In rural areas, where one family may have to travel a mile or so to their nearest neighbor - not so much.

Even living in a city with plumbing in most buildings doesn't guarantee safe water.

Take this one city, for example: They've got plumbing, and even run water for some sort of processing facility before pouring it into a reservoir. An open reservoir, where the water collects bird poop and the occasional animal carcass before being pumped into the city's water mains.

The locals don't seem to mind: like the Lemming said, not all countries are the same. Folks in different parts of the world have different values - you've heard that all before.

Then, somebody noticed one (1) man urinating in the reservoir. One (1) time. Gross, yes: but the Lemming might assume that since the locals normally drink a dilute solution of animal carcasses and bird poop, one dude taking a whiz in the water shouldn't make much difference.

The Lemming would have been wrong.

The city's leaders decided to empty the reservoir. All 8,000,000 gallons of it. That's a whole lot of drinking water. "Safe" drinking water, too.

Remember - the locals figure that a little bird poop and the occasional animal carcass in their drinking water is okay.

Here's the punch line: the city's Portland, Oregon.

The Lemming is Not Making This Up

"Man caught relieving, lake emptied"
The Times of India - UK (June 21, 2011)

"A lake in the US state of Oregon was emptied after a man was caught on a security camera urinating in it....

"...Health experts said the incident would not have caused any harm to people, who are supplied drinking water from the reservoir, since the urine would have vastly diluted.

"But David Shaff, an administrator at the Portland Water Bureau, defended the decision to empty the lake, which is said to cost the taxpayers $36,000, saying: 'It's not an over reaction. What you have to deal with here is the "yuck" factor. Imagine how many people would be saying "I made orange juice with that water this morning".'..."

"Man caught urinating in reservoir, US city flushes 8 million gallons of water"
NDTV.com (June 21, 2011)

"Call it the big flush. Because a 21-year-old man was caught on a security camera urinating into a city reservoir, Oregon's biggest city is sending 8 million gallons of treated drinking water down the drain.

"Portland officials defended the decision yesterday, saying they didn't want to send city residents water laced, however infinitesimally, with urine.

"Public health officials say, however, that urine is sterile in healthy people and that the urine in the reservoir was so diluted perhaps a half pint in millions of gallons 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....

"...City Commissioner Randy Leonard, who is in charge of the water bureau, defended the decision, citing a potential public health risk. He said he worried about the possibility of chlamydia or AIDS from blood in urine....

"...The young man, Josh Seater, told KATU-TV he'd been drinking, was with friends and thought that the reservoir was a sewage treatment plant. He said he felt guilty instantly, and then security guards arrived.

"Besides the sewage charge, Shaff said, the flushed water is worth US $28,000."
" 'Yuck' factor??"

Okay - the Lemming will skip over the horror of it all, and what a shame it is that this perfectly-good drinking water was dumped when millions are in need. It's not likely that the 8,000,000 gallons would have been shipped to Haiti, or India, or anywhere else - and there's still the little matter of bird poop and animal carcases.

And this is part of that 100% "improved" drinking water in the United States?! Well, Portland's just one city.

NDTV said the sewage charge was $8,000: bringing the total cost of dumping that 'safe' drinking water to $28,000+8,000 = $36,000.

Offhand, the Lemming suspects that the city of Portland can afford that.

As for being afraid that the young man might have chlamydia or AIDS? News that the Lemming's read hasn't said anything about Mr. Seater being tested for blood in his urine - or having those, or any other diseases. If that's a real concern, that sort of testing shouldn't be too great a strain on the resources of Portland, Oregon.

On the other hand, the Lemming's noticed that quite a few folks in America have odd ideas about what they call "privacy." And that's another topic.

How Many Pints in 8,000,000 Gallons?

The "pints" and "gallons" cited in the news are almost certainly the sort we've got in America - so the ratio of pints to gallons is 8 to 1.

The NDTV article said there was "perhaps a half pint" of urine involved. Just to make things come out more even, let's say it was 8/10 of a pint, or 0.8 pints. in 8,000,000 gallons of water. That's -






That urine was diluted by a factor of 1 part per 10,000,000. Probably less.

Still, there's the " 'Yuck' factor."

And folks who are scared silly of particular diseases.

And odd notions of "privacy."

Somewhat-related posts:
In the news:
  • 1 Carcasses, poop, and drinking water
  • 2 Nations
    • "Haiti"
      CIA World Factbook (page last updated June 14, 2011)
    • "India"
      CIA World Factbook (page last updated on June 14, 2011)
    • "United States"
      CIA World Factbook (page last updated June 14, 2011)
  • Definitions of
    • Improved drinking water = any of the following
      • Piped water into dwelling, yard, or plot
      • Public tap or standpipe
      • Tubewell or borehole
      • Protected dug well
      • Protected spring
      • Rainwater collection
    • Unimproved drinking water = any of the following
      • Unprotected dug well
      • Unprotected spring
      • Cart with small tank or drum
      • Tanker truck
      • Surface water, which includes
        • Rivers
        • Dams
        • Lakes
        • Ponds
        • Streams
        • Canals
        • Irrigation channels
        • Bottled water
    • Drinking Water, in Definitions and Notes, CIA World Factbook


Brigid said...

This just sounds awkward. Grammatically correct, but awkward. "folks living in places like in Haiti living with none-too-adequate conditions"

Also, you misspelled "yuck" as "yuk" twice:" 'Yuk' factor??"

"Still, there's the " 'Yuk' factor.""

And this heading is missing a word: "How Pints in 8,000,000 Gallons?"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

... Who is so glad she doesn't live in Portland.

Brian H. Gill said...


Found, fixed - thanks! Also - oops.

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