City says water at Jacob Riis Houses is safe to drink

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NEW YORK – New York City says the water at Jacob Riis Houses is safe to drink. 

It comes after a stunning reversal from the city about recent testing that found arsenic in the water at a public housing complex in the East Village.   

The city then said those test results were not accurate, and the testing company is to blame. 

Mayor Eric Adams went to the Jacob Riis Houses Saturday, and shared video on Twitter of him drinking water from the tap. 

He was joined by Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. 

Both enjoyed a glass of water. 

“Really wanted to show with our Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Vasan and the rest of the team as we tell the Riis Houses residents that it’s OK to drink the water,” Adams said. “I’m drinking it. The water’s safe to drink.”

But some told CBS2’s Dave Carlin that the mayor’s video still wasn’t completely reassuring.

“The mayor drank some from the faucet in a particular building right behind me, 118, but I’m still not a believer,” one man said. “It’s a little comforting, but I am still a very safe-guarded person and for my own protection and safety measures … I’m going to wait over a prolonged period of time before I’m really sold on that for myself.”

“The city said it wasn’t OK. Now they’re saying it is OK,” District Leader Daisy Paez said. “They did the testing, but that does not remove the already mindset of worriness that these residents already have. Who do they trust now?”

The city released dozens of pages of lab results in an effort to explain what went so wrong.

The city claims the firm responsible for testing water samples botched the results. One document says the lab introduced the arsenic into testing samples on its own. On one page, it says, “[Environmental Monitoring and Technologies] retracts these results,” and on another, it says, “Initial results were incorrect.”

A second firm was brought in and now samples tested negative for arsenic.

Watch Christina Fan’s report

Tempers flare at Jacob Riis Houses as city says water had no arsenic after all


“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. 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. 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,” Adams said in a statement. 

Adams also said the city believes tests finding Legionella bacteria were also inaccurate. 

“As public health experts have noted, Legionnaires Disease cannot be contracted by drinking water. Additionally, we are actively reviewing our Legionella surveillance data, and have found no reported or confirmed cases of Legionnaires Disease at Riis Houses over the last 12 months,” the mayor said. 

Saturday afternoon, Jacob Riis Houses resident Dave Brasuell, who says he is a senior and disabled, was given cases of water and some food. One thousand sandwiches were donated as politicians, community activists and private businesses pitched in to help these residents.

“People from NYCHA, people from City Council … District Leaders are here, and they’re helping the community. They’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” he said.

READ MORE: NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Jacob Riis Houses tenants slam Mayor Adams, NYCHA for response to arsenic found in tap water

Several city politicians are calling for a full investigation into this scare, which they say turned into an unnecessary fiasco.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams is among those criticizing the way this was handled. He said, “NYCHA has again failed a test of its management.”

To read Environmental Monitoring and Technologies’ statement, click here.

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