The Environmental Protection Agency's $500+ million cleanup of the Gowanus Canal is right around the corner, and, in advance of that, Popular Science's Dan Nosowitz set out to answer the very question that we've all, in our most morbidly curious moments, secretly wondered: What would happen if I drank some water from the Gowanus Canal? The answer starts with dysentery and probably ends with cancer. But, at the same time, it's really impossible to say because the specific types and levels of pollution in Gowanus have never been studied in enough depth, even by the EPA, and also exist at levels that defy science and reason. ("Microbes shouldn't be able to survive in the Gowanus; it's estimated that the oxygen levels are at 1.5 parts per million due to the lack of circulation, less than the 4 parts per million needed to sustain a healthy population of marine life. And yet they're thriving, mutating into new forms.") The Gowanus Canal is basically a science fiction movie at this point.
Nosowitz's information-gathering journey (no, he didn't actually try the water) leads him down a dark and terrifying path, and the whole thing is absolutely worth a read. If you're just dying to know what probably happens when you drink Gowanus water, though, here are the footnotes: 1) A lot of puking/diarrhea brought on by E.coli or dysentery. 2) Arsenic (drowsiness, confusion, severe diarrhea, convulsions and cramping, blood in urine, coma, death), and/or copper (vomiting blood, black and tarry feces, jaundice, burns, death) poisoning, but only if you drink a lot of it, so we probably don't have to worry about those—except in our nightmares. 3) Down the road, quite possibly cancer, immobilized immune system, and inability to have children and/or children having birth defects.
Or maybe you'd turn into Spider-man. You never know until you try.
· What Would Happen If You Drank Water From The Gowanus Canal? [Popular Science]
· Gowanus Canal coverage [Curbed]