On threats to water supplies

Posted in Stumble and Fail, War On Terror at 11:52 am by George Smith

From the wire, infamously:

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 Monday, saying they didn’t want to send city residents water laced, however infinitesimally, with urine.

The 21-year old, a fellow named Josh Seater, has had his emission video viewed many, many more times than his first ultimate fighting cage match, here.

This afford an opportunity to again attack the myth that water supplies are easy targets for terrorism.

As explained in the news story, the problem facing any would-be despoiler is dilution.

Urine, which isn’t particularly noxious, well — Josh just couldn’t supply enough of it. By about six orders of magnitude.

This apparently meant nothing to the local heevahavas who came to the decision, because of public revulsion, that eight million gallons had to be dumped.

During summers of my college years, I managed the Pine Grove community swimming pool, which held half a million gallons and was served by a two story pump-and-filter house, the water purified by drop percolation through granulated coal and sanitized by elemental chlorine injection.

Of course, customers urinated in the pool all the time. The chlorine kept the water free of fecal bacteria. The coal pulled out all the ammonia.

Any large standing body of water, the community pool was no exception, attracts animals.

The critters most frequently fished from the swimming pool were snapping turtles (from a nearby canal) which were always alive. And frogs, which were dead about half the time.

The urine-in-the-water supply near Seattle mentions dead animals being found in the reservoir, as well as regular use by water fowl.

There aren’t any poisons which, in small amounts, can threaten a water supply of this size. Theoretically, botox is poisonous enough, but the toxic protein complex simply wouldn’t survive long enough once dumped, in any quantity, into the water. The US had a cracked plan to do this during the Cold War. Developed in 1953, it was nonsensical.

The only “sort of” controlled experiments using poison to toxify large bodies of water in recent times have been in California.

This involved the state of California’s Department of Fish & Game dumping very large amounts of rotenone into Lake Davis to eliminate an invasive species, the northern pike.

“Late in 2009, reports of Northern Pike showing up in angler catches began again, indicating another failed attempt [at Lake Davis],” says an entry at Wikipedia. It is hard to know if it is true.

Anyway, even this type of thing is quite beyond the capabilities of any terrorists.

There is one way to contaminate water and most people know it with a little prodding. Oil spills.

Between one and two quarts of motor oil was enough to contaminate the Pine Grove community pool, forcing its closure for about a week, in the mid-Seventies. The lifeguards and janitorial staff had to remove the oil, which had maliciously been put in the pool overnight by a couple of local vandals, by skimming.

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