Man sentenced for urinating in Portland reservoir

Man sentenced for urinating in Portland reservoir
Josh Seater said he thought the Mount Tabor reservoir was a sewage plant.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A 23-year-old man who urinated into Portland's water supply last year has pleaded guilty to misuse of a reservoir and been sentenced to community service.

Joshua Seater must complete 24 hours of service at a food bank by Oct. 10. If he fails, he faces five days in jail.

The Colton resident and his attorney declined comment after Thursday's brief hearing in a downtown Portland courtroom.

A security camera caught Seater urinating into the Mount Tabor reservoir in June 2011.

"Within a split second of me taking a urine in there, right afterwards, I felt guilty," he told KATU at the time. "I knew I did wrong when I did it."

The incident led the Portland Water Bureau to drain the 7.5 million-gallon reservoir at a cost of about $36,000. The action helped swell the seemingly minor act into a national news story.

"Josh Seater isn't necessarily a bad person, he just did a really stupid thing," said David Shaff, administrator for the Portland Water Bureau.

Health officials said the urine posed little risk to the public because it represented a relative drop in a multimillion-gallon bucket. Animals routinely deposit waste in the water without creating a public health crisis or spurring the city to drain the system.

Shaff acknowledged the risk was small, but said the bureau did not want to serve tainted water to customers and "we did all of the things that we felt were necessary to protect public health."

Prosecutor Fred Lenzser said it's the first time he's ever prosecuted someone for misuse of a reservoir. He said city officials chose not to seek restitution from Seater.

Shaff said restitution would have been a difficult case to make because emptying the reservoir was a judgment call.

"Part of this is on me," he said. "It was my decision to empty the reservoir. There was not a legal requirement; there was no regulation."

Although Seater apologized at the time, he also said the city should take some responsibility.

"If they are going to be so uptight about me making an accident like I did, why aren't they going to do anything to prevent that?" he said.

The city has five open-air reservoirs and four are in use. The reservoirs, which are due to be either covered or replaced by underground storage within a decade, are typically drained twice a year for cleaning.

Steven DeBois of The Associated Press contributed to this report.