It’s a matter of common wisdom around here that unless you want to end up like that poor dolphin, you should never go into the Gowanus Canal. Avoiding the water at all costs, despite what artists or kayakers tell you, is in your best interests. The biggest reason for this? The waterway is so, so polluted that no one knows what the hell will happen to you if you drink a cup of its oily, slick water, as Popular Science’s Dan Nosowitz found out.
Nosowitz’s long and in-depth article about the Gowanus goes into its history, all the way back to when the canal was first created and how it ended up so damn polluted. But of course, none of that can compare to the horror that health experts and scientists theorized was waiting for you if you actually drank from the Gowanus.
“So right off the bat, you’d have a massive problem with dysentery,” said Ludgen Balan of the Urban Divers Estuary Conservancy. Nasreen Haque, who studied the microbes living in the canal told Nosowitz “We found that everything we threw at it, every kind of imaginable pathogen, was growing there.” And Haque also told Nosowitz that even if nothing happened immediately, you could face the prospect of microbes from the Gowanus just hanging out, living in your body and waiting for your immune system to lower its defenses just once.
The conclusion that Nosowitz drew from the article is that no one knows what would happen to you if you drank from the Gowanus, but they all agree the end results would be horrible. The entire article around the horror of ingesting the water is worth a read too, as it goes in to attempts to clean it, who’s studied it and if it will ever actually be cleaned. Now to wait around for the first tough guy who makes a public spectacle out of drinking a cup of Gowanus water projectile vomiting right after.