Last week's flooding in the southeast sent raw sewage pouring into the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta. Now, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says, federal officials have tested the river's water "and found the E. coli bacteria level was 42 times greater than the highest safe level."
"There is no way you want to get in or even touch water [this dirty]," Sally Bethea of the organization Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper tells the AJC. "I've never seen the water so filthy. It was just filthy, and it didn't smell very good in some places."
It could be weeks before the water is reasonably clean, authorities say, and in the meantime:
The dangers will become more pronounced, (Tim Cash of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division) said, as the floodwaters recede and flows return to normal.
As the amount of water declines, the contaminants become a greater portion of the river.
According to Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, the river "provides drinking water for more than 3.5 million people, including 70% of the people in metro Atlanta (approximately 450 million gallons per day)."
The city's drinking water is said to be safe.