Poop in Your Water

In disgusting scientific findings news, recent studies in California and Wisconsin reveal that cracked city sewage pipes are leaking fecal matter. Teams of researchers at UC-Santa Barbara and the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee analyzed storm-drain water, which is supposed to come mainly from rain and lawns—sewage pipes are supposed to keep the yucky stuff out. But as lead researcher Sandra McLellan of the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee told Science News, the team discovered that sewage bacteria was “nearly ubiquitous in the urban environment.”

This is bad news for sensitive coastal ecosystems where storm drains often empty. But it’s also possible that leaky sewer pipes could contaminate your drinking water, says one researcher:

Many drinking water mains, which are susceptible to corrosion and small breaks, have also been laid near sewer pipes. When water is squirting out under pressure from holes in those mains, germs can’t enter. But mains occasionally experience pressure drops, Edwards notes, which can momentarily cause germy material from the environment to get sucked in. Later, he notes, that filth will surge on toward home faucets.