Well, Shit

You might not want to read this post while eating, and possibly not while you’re at work.

When it rains in NYC, it rarely fucks around – it’s either twelve hours of constant spitting, or a solid hour of ruin-your-clothes downpour. Last year around this time, a huge rainstorm knocked concrete out of an overpass, nearly killing a guy driving under it.

Yesterday, we had another substantial rainstorm. While I didn’t hear about any particular parts of the city crumbling under the wetness, there apparently were bigger problems: now we’ve got something in the water.

I realize for people outside of NYC, the thought of our municipal tap water is, well, troubling. The truth is, it’s actually quite good – a lot of money has gone into filtering and whatnot. The very famous bottled water episode of Bullshit had Penn & Teller’s crew going around Times Square with two bottles of water, one tap and one retail – the tap won out by a substantial margin. For all intents and purposes, it’s always been surprisingly good, and I’ve never had a problem drinking it prior to today.

But now, we have thrilling declarations like this from the Department of Health and Mental Hygine:

Following recent heavy rainstorms, higher than normal levels of particles have been detected in the City’s drinking water supply, which can interfere with the water chlorination process.

Particles. Oh sure, particles, those are normal…right? Wait – particles? Of what? Let’s read on:

These high levels were observed at approximately 2am today at the Hillview reservoir just north of New York City. While the affected water was diverted shortly thereafter, out of an abundance of caution, DOHMH is recommending that infants, the elderly, pregnant women and New Yorkers with conditions that compromise their immune systems– those with HIV/AIDS, especially those with CD4 counts less than 200; those with leukemia; and those who are post bone marrow transplantation – use either boiled or bottled water as a precaution for the next 24 hours (until noon Friday).

Okay, so people with weak immune systems should avoid the water for all of 24 hours. So far so good…

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has requested that doctors increase testing for parasitic illnesses and immediately report these diseases as well as any increase in gastrointestinal symptoms, especially diarrheal illness.

This is where it starts getting unpleasant. The doctors are looking out for diarrhea and/or gastrointestinal problems. I wonder what could cause those problems in people with weak immune systems…oh wait, here’s a helpful list of things to avoid!

General precautions for people with weakened immune systems to prevent diarrheal illness
– Avoid sexual practices that may result in exposure to feces.
– Avoid drinking or accidentally swallowing water from lakes, rivers, ponds, streams, pools or waterparks.
– Avoid contact with feces of all animals, particularly young farm animals such as calves.
– Always wash hands thoroughly after any contact with animals; after any contact with soil (e.g., gardening); after changing diapers, or caring for someone with diarrhea; before eating, or preparing food.

They say you learn something new every day, so here’s your lesson for today: apparently anal sex increase your risk for diarrhea. One would hope that if you were going to do something like that with someone, and they were having diarrhea-like symptoms, they would inform you before you even went down that road. That’s not the sort of surprise you want to spring on someone mid-act.

Now that we’re all past that lovely mental image, let’s piece this together: The health departments have alerted doctors to look for diarrheal symptoms, especially in people with weak immune systems. The main recommendation if you want to avoid diarrheal symptoms is to stay away from fecal matter.

One might just conclude that if they’re worried about people contracting said symptoms from said water, that said particles might just be fecal in nature.

I’m not going to lose any sleep over this, though, because even if there is fecal matter in the water supply for the next twelve hours, it doesn’t come nearly as close to the level of bullshit per liter as this water.