After historic flooding, tests show concerns about water quality are justified in some areas

LEVASY, Mo. -- Historic flooding along the Missouri river impacted hundreds of homes.

Now, as families slowly start to move back in, many of them are wondering if the water is safe.

It's a slow return home for many families living along the Missouri River. Flood waters turned roads into lakes and forced hundreds of families from their homes. Some families even had to use boats to check on their belongings.

Andrea Pope

Andrea Pope moved to Levasy, Missouri, nearly two years ago with her husband and four children.

"Hard, really hard. I have an 8-year-old, and every day she wakes up and asks to go home," she said.

Pope has spent the long summer days cleaning up and said it's difficult to see the damage left behind.

"Just looking at all the devastation and everything you've lost, it's hard," she said.

Pope makes sure to always use a mask and gloves when cautiously cleaning her house. She worries about the color of the water and most notably, the smell.

"I can't even really describe it. It is almost a sewer septic nasty smell. But then you have the mold smell on top of that," the Levasy mom said.

So FOX4 decided to put the water quality to the test.

We teamed up with UMKC Earth and Environmental Science Department to test and determine the quality of the water in Levasy, Carrollton and Leavenworth.

Jejung Lee, an associate professor at UMKC, asked his team to collect water and test it in two locations both in front and behind Pope's home.

We then drove to our second location to test the water in Carrollton, Missouri.

The flood water is currently sitting on top of acres of farmland, and Lee wondered if the fertilizer could impact the water.

While in Carrollton, Lee also measured how fast the flood waters are receding. Over the course of four days without rain, the flood water dropped about a foot.

Finally, we drove to Riverfront Park in Leavenworth, Kansas. That stop brought more tests and more dangerous signs.

Days later, back in the UMKC Earth and Environmental Science lab, the results came in.

In Carrollton, results showed low levels of E. coli.

"So, in Carrollton, the water seems to be OK," Lee said.

In Leavenworth, E. coli levels remained within the standard range. As a result, Lee said you should be cautious when using the water.

But, in Levasy, the team found alarming results.

Tests done at Pope's home in Levasy showed low dissolved oxygen, high salinity and a high temperature. That makes the water unsafe and ultimately led to a breeding ground for E. coli.

"I think that the reason -- I remember their septic tank was overflowing during the flooding. So you better stay away from that water," Lee said.

The conditions will likely leave an impact long after the water recedes. But Pope remains hopeful her hard work will pay off and she'll one day return home.

"This is my home. This is our home," she said. "We hope there is nothing horrible in that water, but this is our home. We have nothing else."

See the team's full results here

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