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In the Midwestern United States, floodwaters contaminated with atoxic brew containing such ingredients as sewage, farm runoff, andpetroleum are raising concerns over the availability of cleandrinking water.

Flooding has been reported in the states of Iowa, Minnesota,Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas and Indiana, with threedeaths reported each in Iowa and Indiana, prompting comparisons tosimilar floods in 1993 that caused US$21 billion in damages. Theflooding in Iowa has resulted in damage to buildings,infrastructure and farms, and governor Chet Culver’s office hasestimated that 36,000 people have been made homeless.

Residents of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who had begun returning totheir homes to inspect damage and salvage belongings, wade throughankle-deep water that has picked up refuse from farms, sewage, andother noxious chemicals. LeRoy Rippert, chairman of emergencymanagement and homeland security in Des Moines County, wasconcerned for residents, saying “It is very, very wise to stay outof it. It’s as dangerous as anything”. Experts in biology andmedicine also raised concerns over the floodwater contaminatingrural wells and providing breeding grounds for mosquitos. “Forrural folks, it’s going to be hard to know if their water’s safe ornot,” said G. Richard Olds, chairman of the Medical College ofWisconsin. Ken Sharp, environmental health director for the IowaDepartment of Public Health, acknowledged the risks of thecontaminated water, but suggested that the sheer volume of watermay help to dilute the pollution.

June has seen a number of disasters hit the Midwest, including atornado that killed four Boy Scouts last week.