(NEW YORK) — Water is everywhere in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy – in basements, on the streets and in transit systems – but the one place it could be most dangerous is in your body.
ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser collected floodwater and drinking water in some of the areas hit hardest by Sandy and had them tested at The Ambient Group lab. The floodwater collected in Lower Manhattan tested positive for gasoline and two types of bacteria found in sewage: E. coli and coliform.
“Very dangerous,” Besser said. “Make sure you wear protective gear if you are coming into contact with flood water.”
Looking at the testing containers filled with Manhattan floodwater, Besser said that the yellow in one container meant bacteria was present and the purple in another meant “sky-high levels of sewage contamination.”
Wednesday, he went to Piermont, N.Y., an area hit so hard by the hurricane that it’s under a boil water advisory, meaning residents are instructed not to drink tap water without purifying it with several drops of bleach.
When a power outage knocked out one of Piermont’s water pumps, officials were concerned about tap water contamination. The water company tested water from a hydrant, which initially ran brown, but eventually cleared.
Besser tested the hydrant water as well and saw that it had chlorine in it, which protects it from germs.
He also collected tap water from a family’s home faucet, but the lab results won’t be ready until Thursday. The family is already boiling its water as a precaution.
Water companies are responsible for alerting residents if their water is unsafe to drink. Alerts can also come from town or city officials.
In New York City, for instance, the Department of Environmental Protection announced that its water was safe to drink. Water in reservoirs 125 miles north of the city continue to be monitored closely with extra testing in the wake of the storm.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio