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What's in floodwater? Hazardous materials could be flowing downstream.

Posted at 8:23 PM, Jun 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-06 09:40:38-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — Fueled by melting snow and torrential rains upstream, the Missouri River is flowing deep and fast, collecting trash and other hazards along the way.

It's a big reason that river watchers urge everyone to stay out of the water until it recedes.

Kansas Riverkeeper Dawn Buehler said the river quality is poor and the recent floods have pulled in toxic chemicals that are not normally in there, like livestock waste and fertilizer and much worse.

"You’ll see things like high nitrogen levels, high phosphorous levels, high e-coli levels," Buehler said. "We’ve had wastewater treatment plants that have been flooded and failed pump stations that have sent sewage into our waters."

Any of those things can make you very sick.

"One of the things that people can get is giardia which can cause a lot of stomach upset and diarrhea and vomiting," Buehler said. "Sometimes, people can end up in the hospital."

To make things worse for forecast water conditions, earlier this week KC Water said two broken sewer mains at a pump station along the Missouri River spewed wastewater into the river.

"That’s incredibility damaging," Buehler said. "In fact, that’s one of the worst things that can happen in a waterway."

Once the water recedes, some of that hazardous materials will go away and trash may cling on to the edge of the river, sending a massive cleanup effort into action.

People who spot pollution or something unusual are urged to call a couple the Missouri Department of Natural Resources or the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.