The Gowanus Canal, which Popular Science calls, correctly, “one of the most creatively and massively pathogenetic waterways on the planet,” is even grosser than you could imagine. And you’d imagine it’s pretty gross, just from the color and the smell. But according to PopSci, the details are even more nauseating:

  • “heavy metals, carcinogens, congeners, and more”
  • “fecal matter in the parts per hundred”
  • lots and lots of E. coli
  • “micro-environments … there’s hardly any interaction between the water I grabbed and, say, water a few inches above the muck in the center of the canal”
  • microbes that are “breeding and evolving into new forms we’ve never seen before, in concentrations seen in few other places on Earth”
  • lots and lots of Enterococcus — “a pretty good sign that there’s a whole bunch of other nasty stuff going on in there too.”

PopSci asked, “What would happen if you drank the water?” There’s not an exact answer, but there’s basically no scenario in which you don’t get at least a little sick:

Maybe nothing but some diarrhea, right now. Maybe E. coli or some other bacterial illness. But it’s also fairly likely that you could develop cancer thanks to build-up in your body.

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Charming. Uh, what happens if you breath in the air? Because some of us live pretty close.