Jacob Riis Houses tenants are losing patience with the city’s response to tap water arsenic problems

NEW YORK — For the fourth day, about 3,000 inhabitants of the city it is advised not to drink or cook with the water at home.

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

CBS2’s Astrid Martinez spoke to concerned tenants and city leaders as their patience is running out.

“This is what they’ve done, the housing. They called us and told us everything is negative, but still ‘don’t drink the water,'” said tenant Amanda Sanks.

Late Monday afternoon, NYCHA began warning residents of Jacob Riis that the latest test samples of water in the residential complex did not detect arsenic, after officials found a light contamination last week.

But many tenants said they have doubts.

“Because at one point they said it was negative. Then they came back and said it was positive. So it was the back and forth with the residents that they were losing confidence,” Daphne Williams said.

The city is still awaiting additional results from more than 100 different areas of the East Village residential complex. As a precaution, it asks residents not to drink or cook with the tap water.

City Councilor Carlina Rivera was on the scene following the latest findings to allay residents’ fears.

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

A major concern being investigated by the city’s federal monitor, Bart Schwartz, is how long it took NYCHA to test for the toxic metal and why it didn’t immediately notify residents.

“We will continue to demand testing and support for the families — water, food and figuring out in the future what the impact will be on the city,” Rivera said.

Dozens of tenants started complaining about milky water three weeks ago, but said no one was listening. City says it’s still not clear if the water’s turbidity is linked to elevated levels of arsenic.

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

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

“I’m a little scared, you know, how this will go in the future,” said 13-year-old Akeilles Esquilin.

On Friday night NYCHA started handing out bottled water to residents after it revealed a positive arsenic test. The agency said it will provide supplies until the water in the buildings is safe to use.

However, the housing authority ran out of bottled water on Monday and gave water in cans instead.

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

“This is per household. My grandmother can’t stand it. She is 90 years old,” said another tenant.

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

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

The city set up makeshift sinks for people to get water from fire hydrants, but residents told CBS2 it’s difficult to bring this water to their apartments for cooking or bathing.

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

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