EAST VILLAGE, Manhattan (WABC) — A federal monitor ordered the city to preserve all documents related to the investigation dangerous levels of arsenic in tap water at the NYCHA complex in the East Village.
Over the holiday weekend, thousands of tenants in Jacob Riis homes were forced to use bottled water and portable water stations after being told not to drink or cook with tap water.
NYCHA began testing the water several weeks ago after reports of cloudy water. On Friday, test results revealed traces of arsenic. Sunday’s test showed no elevated levels, but testing will continue.
In response to the order to preserve all documents related to the investigation, the city said it already maintains the records and “will continue to be transparent with the public.”
The city says there is no evidence the arsenic levels are linked to the murky water.
A city official said that now that testing shows the contamination is not coming from the water supply into the complex, the focus has shifted to the plumbing system in Riis itself. One possibility is that construction after Superstorm Sandy repairs, as well as work on the heating system, displaced soil that could now enter the system. The city would not comment on speculation.
On Monday, NYCHA said it had collected more random samples from low-rise buildings for the first time.
“These buildings have never been sampled for arsenic before, but we wanted to get a distribution because we wanted to have a lot to reliably sample,” said NYCHA’s Daniel Green.
The initial positive tests, about five or six, came from two high-rise buildings where, unlike the others, when the water comes out of the main, it goes into a tank on the roof.
While testing continues, residents are being asked to help flush the system if contamination is found in the building’s pipes. On three floors, residents open the taps and run water for three hours.
Resident Luisa Velez lives with her daughter and two grandchildren and is very worried.
“Everything is supposed to be modern and high-tech, I don’t know how that can happen,” she said. “This water is used for everything, to rinse your mouth, wash your face, brush your teeth, I tell the children, don’t touch the water, don’t drink it, don’t swallow it.”
NYCHA is awaiting the results of additional tests on the water “collected today in the apartments, rooftop tanks and elsewhere, and we are committed to receiving results as soon as possible.”
In the meantime, Veles and her family are waiting for the results of tests that will determine what happens next.
NYCHA said rebuilding trust in the East Village community is at the top of the list. If the new samples also show elevated arsenic levels, the next steps will take some time to trace the source of the problem, they said.
Submit a tip or story idea to Eyewitness News
Copyright © 2022 WABC-TV. All rights reserved.