EPA warns against skin contact with toxic New Orleans floodwaters

The floodwaters swamping New Orleans have become a filthy, toxic stew, testing at least 10 times over the U.S. EPA’s limits for sewage-related contaminants like E. coli, viruses, and cholera-like bacteria. The EPA has warned that skin contact with floodwater could be almost as risky to human health as drinking it; searchers are giving the city’s remaining holdouts the cruddy news, hoping it’ll convince them to willingly evacuate. The agency has waived some Clean Water Act regulations so that floodwaters can be pumped out of New Orleans and into Lake Pontchartrain. With everything from battery acid to gasoline to household chemicals mixing with the organic pollutants, some worry that the lake and surrounding waterways may be damaged for years to come, but the area’s power is still down, making it unfeasible to run filtration systems. And finally, as if things weren’t bad enough, bacteria may have migrated beyond New Orleans: four people in Mississippi and one in Texas have reportedly died from wound infections most likely picked up while wading through contaminated floodwater.