During some floods, the water flows through the city like a river, collecting a large amount of dirt and contaminants. Most people know that floodwater is unsafe, but they decide to wade through it anyway. Until you test the water, you cannot ensure its safety and guarantee your good health. Prepare yourself by learning about the contaminants that are commonly found in floodwater.
Anyone who collects floodwater and tests the samples will find high levels of bacteria. There are E. coli bacteria that comes from sewage waste and is known to cause diarrhea, nausea, urinary tract infections and Crohn’s disease.
Most bacterial infections are serious and may lead to gangrene or meningitis. Some diseases like pneumonia appear easily in people with weak immune systems. After the infection, you may become hospitalized or have to receive a life-saving shot.
Bacterial outbreaks are known to occur after natural disasters. Some E. coli strains contaminate foods on a wide scale and cause countless medical emergencies. As a result, city officials work to prevent floodwater from reaching the drinking water supply.
During many floods, the sewers overflow with water and spill out onto the streets. Sewage waste contains fecal bacteria and viruses that cause serious diseases. You may be able to detect the presence of sewage by the water’s murky color or odor. However, many people who walk through floodwater do not know that they are walking through sewage.
In most cities, cars appear all over the road. Floodwater picks up the oil and grime that are found on cars and roads. Some floodwaters are polluted with large oil spills or gasoline leaks that have strong odors.
Floods collect large amounts of heavy metals from the streets. The water is polluted with lead or arsenic and then mixes with nearby water supplies. Heavy metals are safe in small amounts but dangerous in excess amounts. Like bacteria, the metals are not easy to detect by eye either. Cancers, bone diseases and nervous system disorders are caused by heavy metal toxicity.
If floodwater is not safe to drink, it’s not safe to walk around in either. Whenever you step into floodwater, you’re taking a serious risk that could have long-term health consequences. Wear protective clothing if you have to come into floodwater. The best option is to wait until the waters recede and listen to the advice of public health officials.