NYCHA mishandled water testing at Jacob Riis Houses that falsely detected arsenic, City finds

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Friday, May 17, 2024
NYCHA mishandled water testing at Jacob Riis Houses, City finds
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EAST VILLAGE, Manhattan (WABC) -- A new report unveiled by the New York City Department of Investigation released Thursday found the NYCHA botched its handling of water tests done at the Jacob Riis Houses two years ago.

Residents in the East Village complex made approximately 580 complaints to NYCHA about cloudy water in the summer of 2022.

After tests were completed by the NYCHA, the organization incorrectly reported the water contained arsenic, the report says.

The cloudy water resulted in a failure of one of two house pumps in the development, putting stress on the remaining house pump and caused air to be introduced into the water system resulting in aerated water, which has a cloudy appearance.

"I felt nauseous. I had diarrhea constantly, lost my taste buds," Carlos Viner, Riis Houses resident, told Eyewitness News.

The DOI's report also noted that NYCHA chose a lab that didn't have the right state certification to do the tests, and it wasn't given the proper instructions.

"NYCHA's inability to properly determine the cause of the water concerns at Jacob Riis Houses was the starting point of the agency's flawed response, prompting undue anxiety and stress for residents and a delay in resolving their complaints about discolored water - problems that were not caused by arsenic but by a failed house pump," said DOI Commissioner Jocelyn E. Strauber.

The DOI acknowledged that it has already issued 23 reforms to NYCHA, including strengthening protocols related to emergency response to water problems and improving training for staff on key issues such as water distribution systems.

Mayor Eric Adams even stopped by last week to show residents there's nothing to worry about.

"I love New York water," Adams said.

Meanwhile, residents aren't buying it.

"He's saying that there's nothing wrong with it and he shouldn't do that," Viner said.

NYCHA in a statement to Eyewitness News said: "The Department of Investigation's report reaffirms that there is no - and never was any - arsenic in the water at Riis Houses and demonstrates that NYCHA acted in good faith to respond quickly to what we now know was a laboratory error. The process has been investigated and put through rigorous evaluation, with robust public transparency, and in the months since this incident, NYCHA has taken many steps including the establishment of the Office of Water Quality, to strengthen and improve its internal processes as we continue to move the Authority forward."

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