NYC clears water for drinking at the Jacob Riis Houses after false alarm over arsenic results

September 12, 2022

Photo courtesy of edenpictures on Flickr

Positive test results showing dangerous levels of arsenic in an East Village public housing complex were false. Environmental Monitoring and Technologies Inc., the testing firm that originally reported unsafe levels of arsenic at the Jacob Riis Houses, said there had been “trace levels” of arsenic introduced into the original testing samples analyzed on August 26, resulting in a false positive test, as Gothamist reported. The city on Saturday announced the tap water was cleared for drinking following new tests of the original water sample.

“I know the last eight days have been unbearable for the residents of Jacob Riis Houses, but, this morning, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reviewed the final test results for contaminants and found the water to be well within EPA drinking water quality standards,” Mayor Eric Adams said.

“We can confidently say the water at Riis Houses is and has been free of any discernible amount of arsenic since the initial tests were initiated in August and meets EPA standards.”

The announcement comes a week after the city told residents of the public housing complex to not use their tap water. The federal monitor overseeing NYCHA had opened an investigation into the agency’s actions leading up to the test results.

Fabien Levy, the mayor’s press secretary, said the test results from another firm had shown minimal levels of arsenic in the Jacob Riis House’s water. The firm, LiRo Environmental, also analyzed the water for other contaminants, which all came back negative.

Levy stated: “Above all else, the health and safety of residents remain our top priorities and we continue to approach the situation with an extreme level of care, which is why, earlier this week, we initiated a number of additional tests through LiRo Environmental for other contaminants. Initial results for typical contaminants have now come back negative.”

On Saturday,  Adams and NYC Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan stopped by the housing complex to try the water themselves.

Adams stated: “I would not ask the residents of Riis Houses to do anything I wouldn’t do, which is why I have already stopped by Riis Houses and drank the water myself.”

All test results relating to the discovery of arsenic in the Jacob Riis Houses can be found here.


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