Whew. The Environmental Protection Agency has released the results [PDF] of water samples they took after Hurricane Sandy from flooded buildings near the Gowanus Canal (and from the canal itself) and besides a lot of poop it actually seems to have been okay.
Despite the EPA calling Gowanus "one of the nation’s most extensively contaminated water bodies" their tests found "chemicals that were tested were below levels of concern or not detected." Still, "levels of bacteria were high. While this type of bacteria becomes inactive over time, these findings reinforce the need for people to protect themselves when cleaning up flood waters that contain sewage and therefore contain bacteria." Most likely that bacteria was a byproduct of sewage that ended up in the canal.
But what about the oily residue that the water left after it receded? "Low levels of gasoline and diesel derivatives were found, consistent with road run-off which often contains traces of fuel."
Previously officials had speculated that the "the floodwaters probably traveled over the Gowanus and Brooklyn's other Superfund site, Newtown Creek, without disturbing the pollutants that line the bottoms of both waterways" and it seems that is the case. That sound you hear? That is a lot of people letting out a huge sigh of relief. Which doesn't mean that they shouldn't still be following the EPA's cleanup advice!