New York

Tenants and Critics Demand Answers as City Hall Says Test Showing Arsenic in Water at Jacob Reese’s Home Was a ‘Misread’

Eight days after warning tenants of NYCHA’s Jacob Riis Houses not to drink water The test contained arsenic.

After going back and forth over eight days, starting Friday night during Labor Day weekend, tenants shouted that they didn’t know what to believe and the audience erupted, leaving them furious and exhausted.

“This week has felt like an eternity,” said Riis tenant Dianna Fernandez. “Water is essential. NYCHA needs to do better. Mayor Adams: Where are you?”

Mayor Eric Adams was in Washington, trying to convince the Democratic National Committee to hold the convention in New York, but Housing Authority Chairman Gregory Russ was present, faced with an angry crowd, and immediately asked to move to the room. became the target of many of the outbursts of anger.

“Well, I have to apologize for these eight days,” cried Russ as a resident. NYCHA’s Long History of Deceptionloudly cursed and beat him.

“Why did we decide to do this?” he said on one occasion. “I didn’t want to be in a situation where if there was some kind of contamination, I would be like, ‘Oh my God, why didn’t they tell me anything?'”

“Now that I know what caused the misreading, I can honestly say there is no arsenic in the water,” Russ said, trying to continue, but was yelled at.

Minutes earlier, Adams’ chief housing officer, Jessica Katz, had tried in vain to hear the story over the hustle and bustle, and the laboratory that first found arsenic levels in Reese’s tap water. said it had retested the original sample and retracted its previous results on Friday.

“There was and never has been arsenic in Reese’s water,” said Katz after Tennant leaders managed to calm the crowd. “We know NYCHA has lost your trust over the years, so we had to do more than that.”

It remains to be seen if Tennant believed in Katz or Russ.

Juan Pagan, a resident of Jacob Riis Houses, tells fellow residents to vote for city officials for the chaos of arsenic water. September 9, 2022.

Hiram Alejandro Duran/THE CITY

“We accept nothing, but we need to listen,” said Damaris Reyes, director of the Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), a housing advocacy group that works with lease tenants. She told THE CITY after the meeting that tenant leaders and several elected officials planned to hire an independent environmental consultant to look at all the test results.

Public advocate Jumaane Williams, who attended a raucous tenant meeting, gathered outside because another 100 tenants couldn’t fit in the packed conference room.

“NYCHA has failed the test of its administration again,” he said. “Tenants who were terrified last week and had murky waters weeks before, need full answers and accountability.”

In a joint statement, multiple city officials blamed the NYCHA and the mayor’s office for this last-minute shakeup at Leasing.

Council Chair Adrienne Adams, Council Member Carlina Rivera (D-Lower Manhattan), Public Housing Commission Chair Alexa Avilés (D-Brooklyn), and Oversight and Investigation Committee Chair Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan). ) wrote: Pollution at Riis Houses raises even more questions that need answers, and residents are understandably concerned and angry. The Council will oversee to ensure transparency and clarity regarding water quality and safety for all NYCHA residents. “

unanswered question

Friday night’s regional hearing was convened by Leasing Tenant Association President Daphne Williams, not by NYCHA, to answer lingering questions about reports of arsenic in tap water that NYCHA now says. It was meant to be obtained.

This story started just before midnight last Friday. The mayor was the first to reveal test results that showed Leith’s water contained toxic heavy metals, and hurriedly turned up there to hand out bottled water. Then an unreported test.

The question quickly arises as to when NYCHA and other city officials first became concerned about possible contamination of Reese’s water, and why it took three days before the test results were made public. arose.

In the days that followed, the mayor’s office issued statements nearly daily, saying subsequent tests of the water “showed no discernible traces of arsenic.”However, these tests were only done after NYCHA flushed the pipe I turn on the faucet for 3 to 4 hours in each apartment.

About 30 minutes before the community meeting started, Adams spokesperson Fabien Levy said the lab that tested the samples in late August and then again on September 1 had somehow contaminated the samples with arsenic. issued a statement declaring that One page document From the Illinois Environmental Monitoring & Technologies (EMT) company, they said they retested the original samples that tested positive and now found no traces of arsenic. I have officially retracted my original results.

But on Friday, the NYCHA and city hall continued to tell tenants not to drink or cook water pending further testing to rule out what Katz described as other “atypical” contaminants. I kept advising them not to.

She said she expects those results on Saturday.

“All Legal Options Available”

Tenant complaints about cloudy water in Riis continued throughout the summer. On August 16, NYCHA returned test results that the water was drinkable. However, the laboratory did not test the metal, and a new test was ordered.

Katz told THE CITY on Friday that city officials don’t know why NYCHA has asked for more tests. On August 29, 2019, he LiquiTech, an environmental company hired by NYCHA to handle water quality issues in development, took water samples at Riis.

Liquitech sent the sample to EMT and their testing found the presence of unspecified metals.

The next day, August 30, Liquitech took samples from six separate locations in two separate buildings in Riis. On August 31st, EMT test results showed arsenic levels in five of the six samples at levels deemed unacceptable by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A sixth sample was on his EPA line.

Then, after 11:00 pm on Friday, September 2nd, it took City Hall and NYCHA to inform tenants and the public of the results. At that point, the city’s health department advised residents not to drink or cook water, and city hall began handing out cases of bottled water to vigilant residents.

City Hall and NYCHA have since questioned the validity of the initial positive results, with tenants and elected officials demanding more details, including actual test results.

Adams spokesman Levy said in a statement to the press: Detectable amounts of arsenic have been detected since the first tests began in August. “

Levy also hinted that the city could file a lawsuit against EMT, stating: A resident of Lease House.

City Hall also promised to release all test results records from the EMT on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Bert Schwartz, a court-ordered federal observer overseeing the NYCHA, said: Inquiry started Find out what happened at Reese’s home and ask the authorities to keep a record of all correspondence and documents. On Friday, a spokesperson for the Monitor did not return calls for comment on the status of its investigation. Tenants and Critics Demand Answers as City Hall Says Test Showing Arsenic in Water at Jacob Reese’s Home Was a ‘Misread’

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