Yesterday I received the following question regarding the blog I wrote on sewage-polluted waters. If sewer water ends up in nearby lakes and ponds, would fish and game still be a reliable food source? This is a tough question, because I don’t know a clear cut answer.
Under normal circumstances, I would say to avoid eating and fish that was caught in sewage-polluted waters. As far as game, I would normally avoid them if they were drinking the contaminated waters.
But we are talking about after a major disaster and food may be in short supply. If I had a well-supplied deep larder, I would avoid consuming these foods for significant period of time. The sun will help kill the bacteria and viruses in the water and on the ground.
With food in short supply, you may have to use these waters as a food source. Fish, I think are the biggest problem. Faced with the choice of eating them or starvation I would consume them, probably in the form of a stew that had been well boiled.
NOAA the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the following about shellfish.
“Will cooking make sewage-polluted shellfish safe to eat?
Not entirely. Cooking will kill bacteria that cause some diseases, but it is not known whether certain virus diseases, such as infectious hepatitis, can be prevented by cooking.
Is it possible to purify shellfish from sewage-polluted water for safe eating?
Yes. Sewage-polluted shellfish transplanted to clean water purify themselves rapidly and become safe to eat.”
As far as plants growing in the sewage-polluted water, I would avoid them if at all possible.
As far as game, I would avoid anything that looked sick. Animals often are exposed to waste products and their systems will help filter some of the contamination out. I would avoid organ meats and cook everything well.
If the sewage-polluted water is your only source of drinking water, I hope you have a good quality water filter that will kill viruses. If not your only option is to expose the water to the sun by using SODIS and then I think I would still boil it if possible.
Fortunately, if the sewage-pollution is for a relatively short duration, natural sources of surface water will clean themselves of bacteria and viruses over time.
Chemical contaminates are another problem and lacking the resources to check the water, you may just have to take your chances.