NYC wants answers after tainted water scare at NYCHA's Riis Houses

The false alarm forced residents to find other ways of getting clean water until the city eventually gave the all-clear.

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Saturday, September 24, 2022
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The NYC Council held a hearing to get to the bottom of a tainted water scare at NYCHA's Jacob Riis Houses on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Mike Marza has the latest.

EAST VILLAGE, Manhattan (WABC) -- The New York City Council held a hearing Friday to get to the bottom of a tainted water scare at NYCHA's Jacob Riis Houses on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Frustrations boiled over even before testimony began as the room across the street from City Hall that was set to hold the hearing was too small for everyone who showed up and it was moved it to the council chambers.

"One minute they tell us it's not arsenic and then they have other vendors that gave the results back to us and said it was arsenic," Riis Tenants Association President Daphne Williams told the council.

NYCHA started testing the water at the Jacob Riis Houses several weeks ago because of complaints of cloudy water.

"Somebody called up and told me that their water was white like pudding," Riis Houses resident Dave Brasuell said.

the lab that originally found arsenic in the water later issued a full retraction and said it had introduced arsenic into the water samples.

The false alarm forced 2,600 residents to find other ways of getting clean water until the city eventually gave the all-clear for residents to start drinking the water again.

But residents like Jovita Santiago who has lived in Riis Houses for more than 60 years say the water quality is a constant problem.

"I've been complaining now for over seven years, I've been calling NYCHA and telling them 'why does our water smell like sewage," Santiago said.

During the hearing, NYCHA apologized for the confusion and its handling of the water complaints and acknowledged more needs to be done.

"NYCHA informed its expert agency partners and the public promptly upon receiving confirmed reports that there were elevated levels of arsenic at Riis. Reports that turned out to be false positives," NYCHA interim Executive Officer Lisa Bova-Hiatt said.

NYCHA agreed to give each household at the complex 200 dollars and also to hold small question and answer sessions and test the water twice a month beginning Saturday.

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