Toxic Runoff 'Dangerous as Anything'

"It's my property. I own it!" yelled Cedar Rapids, Iowa, resident Rick Blazek as authorities kept him and dozens of other residents from returning to their flood-ravaged homes. "Why can't I go in and inspect it?"

According to The Associated Press, minutes later Blazek, 54, decided he was going home no matter what official restrictions were in place. After attempting to drive around a checkpoint and allegedly bumping into an officer in the process, Blazek found himself looking through his windshield and down the barrel of a police officer's handgun. Soon after Blazek was pulled from his car and arrested for assaulting an officer.

The strictly enforced restrictions are in place to keep residents away from floodwaters that could be hazardous due to electrical and structural concerns in the weakened homes, as well as contamination.

"People should take precautions about being in floodwaters," warned Regenia Bailey, District C Mayor of Iowa City, Iowa. "It's very important."

In Oakville, Iowa, Bob Lanz was taken aback by the noxious spread of sewage as he navigated an aluminum flatboat through the remains of downtown. "You can hardly stand it. It's strong," Lanz told the AP.

As floodwaters overtook paint stores, gas stations and countless other sources of toxic contaminants, the rush of water became a harmful cocktail of refuse.

According to an AP report, Leroy Lippert, chairman of emergency management and homeland security in Des Moines County, Iowa, gave a dire warning:

"If you drink this water and live, tell me about it. You have no idea. It is very, very wise to stay out of it. It's as dangerous as anything."

At latest count the flooding along the Iowa and Mississippi Rivers had invaded more than six states, caused the deaths of at least 22 people and brought the danger of disease to thousands of people.

"We don't typically see mass cases of disease or illness coming from floodwater," Ken Sharp, the environmental health director for the Iowa Department of Public Health, told the AP. "But under any circumstance like this, we want people to avoid it because we don't know what's in there."

For many communities further downstream on the Mississippi that are still in danger of being flooded, dealing with prevention comes before contamination.

Along the river, hundreds of officials and volunteers are preparing to give Mother Nature the best fight they can by stacking millions of sandbags to reinforce the 27 levees that the federal government predicts may be endangered based on current forecasts.

According to the "Significant River Flood Outlook" graphic released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, most of eastern Iowa, most of western Illinois and parts of northeastern Missouri are areas where flooding is "occurring or imminent."

Buffalo, Iowa resident Cindy Mendez knew that flooding in her town was imminent and decided to fight the best she could — by working for two days to barricade her mother's home against the floodwaters. But as Mendez learned, like thousands in the past week, sometimes the best effort is not enough.

"Finally we said we got to let it go. We can't keep fighting," Mendez said while trudging through her mother's house up to her knees in muddy water. "We gave up. Mother Nature wins."