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Tenants of Jacob Riis Houses Are Losing Patience Over City’s Response to Arsenic Problems in Tap Water

NEW YORK — For the fourth day, about 3,000 city residents are discouraged from drinking or cooking with the water in their own home.

The latest NYCHA test results at Jacob Riis Houses show that no arsenic was found, but further testing is needed.

CBS2’s Astrid Martinez spoke to worried tenants and city leaders as their patience runs out.

“So they did, the Housing Authority. They called us and said everything was negative, but still ‘don’t drink the water,'” tenant Amanda Sanks said.

Late Monday afternoon, NYCHA began alerting residents of Jacob Riis that the housing complex’s latest water samples did not detect arsenic, after authorities found mild contamination there. last week.

But many tenants said they remained skeptical.

“Because at one point they say it was negative. Then it was positive. So what’s the back and forth with the locals, that they lose their trust?” said Daphne Williams.

The city is still awaiting additional results for more than 100 different parts of the East Village housing complex. As a precaution, residents are asked not to drink or cook with tap water..

Councilwoman Carlina Rivera was on hand after the latest findings to allay residents’ fears.

“We are demanding further testing because we had heard before that arsenic had been detected and now it is not. We are in a place where we have even more questions than before,” Rivera said. .

A major concern being investigated by Federal City Comptroller Bart Schwartz is the length of time it took NYCHA to test for the toxic metal and why it did not immediately notify residents.

“We will continue to demand testing and support for families, water, food and to determine in the future what the consequences will be for the city,” Rivera said.

Dozens of tenants started complaining about the milky water three weeks ago, but no one listened. City says it’s still unclear if water cloudiness is related to high arsenic levels.

“Parents didn’t know and they used the water to mix their babies’ milk, powdered milk, take baths, drink, take medicine,” tenant Bridget Tuck said.

“Why didn’t anyone tell us that?” said tenant Tashaka Owens.

“I’m a little scared, you know, how it’s going to be in the future,” said 13-year-old Akeilles Esquilin.

On Friday evening, NYCHA began distributing bottled water to residents after revealing a positive arsenic test. The agency said it would provide supplies until water in buildings is safe to use.

However, the Housing Authority ran out of bottled water on Monday and instead distributed water in canisters.

“This canned water tastes like chalk. You can’t even cook with it,” tenant Evelyn Negron told CBS2’s Lisa Rozner.

“It’s per household. My grandma can’t stand it. She’s 90,” another tenant said.

For residents with children or serious health issues, this becomes a water emergency.

“I don’t think I’ll ever trust water after this because it’s scary. We’re not talking about little things here. We’re talking about poison,” tenant Stacey Hemby said.

The city installed makeshift sinks for people to get water from fire hydrants, but residents told CBS2 it was difficult to get that water into their apartments for cooking or bathing.

For a fourth day, Mayor Eric Adams would not have made himself available to address the issue. He stopped at the complex on Friday and Sunday to take photos with residents collecting water. The mayor’s office says the rest of the city’s water supply is safe to drink.


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