We’ve all been dripped on by the subway ceiling’s forbidden juice–it’s almost like an initiation to be welcomed as a true New Yorker. A rite of passage, if you must. And though many of us would say ignorance is bliss in this case and would rather not know exactly what the mysterious liquid is made of, others have a curiosity that just won’t quit.
Alas, whether you wanted to know or not, we now have our answer.
According to Curbed, Benjamin Bostick, research professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, took to the subway to figure out what exactly is in the subway water we all try our hardest to dodge–a feat many of us aren’t brave enough for–and the results may surprise you.
A curious Bostick took to the Fulton Street 4 platform equipped with a tiny plastic bottle to catch the frequent drips (according to an informal survey of commuters) that rain down from the ceiling. After 15 minutes later–and not a single second look from an unfazed New Yorker–Bostick had collected about 10-15 milliliters of the mysterious liquid.
An immediate read of the pH level scored at a neutral seven, which, according to Bostick, means “it might be close to normal things,” such as rainwater.
Samples were also then collected at the Chambers Street J.
And the results, which took a few months to gather, are, according to Bostick, “more interesting than [he] thought it would be.”
As it turns out, as reported by Curbed, the gross droplets are actually not that gross at all–in fact, they’re actually pretty clean. “It’s very fresh water that is clearly moving through whatever is above the subway pretty quickly,” said Bostick. Though, of course, it’s not up to drinking water standards (though drinking it was never a thought in any of our minds).
The liquid is mostly made up of elements such as sulfate, calcium, zinc, lead, and other trace metals, and is essentially similar to your normal run-of-the-mill precipitation.
Microbial contamination was not tested for, as that would require a more complicated analysis, but Bostick notes that if there were some sort of this type of contamination present the water would likely be saltier than it was.
So, while we’ll all likely continue to dodge the unwelcome subway “rain,” at least we can rest assured knowing it’s not that gross after all.