Laboratory retracts results showing arsenic in water at NYCHA complex

The lab, which discovered arsenic in drinking water at an East Village public housing complex, retracted its test results and “admitted to being the ones who introduced the toxic compound into the samples,” officials said.

Environmental Monitoring and Technologies called the initial results showing traces of the dangerous heavy metal in the Jacob Riis homes “false,” according to a statement by city hall press secretary Fabien Levy on Friday.

But despite the retraction, city officials again on Friday warned residents at the complex to continue avoiding drinking the water pending additional testing – extending the now-week-long shutdown.

“[O]As a precaution, we continue to ask residents of Riis House not to drink or cook with the water in their building,” Levy said.

Levy said Environmental Monitoring and Technologies would be barred from working with city officials again.

The laboratory "admitted to be the ones who introduced" the toxic compound in the samples.
Residents queuing in front of the Jacob Riis houses last week to fetch water.
William Farington

The lab’s testimony, apart from announcing its retraction, also spurned new controversy as it revealed that city officials had known of at least one positive test for the dangerous substance for at least a week before telling residents the water was off drink.

It turned out that there were two – ultimately erroneous – tests that came back positive: one on August 26; and the second on September 1st.

The results contradict repeated statements by City Hall and the housing authority that there was only one test positive for arsenic.

Officials made the now-debunked claim in response to a story published on September 2 by investigative news website The City, which, citing two sources, reported that officials had known about the result for two weeks before making it informed residents of Jacob Riis.

NYCHA distributed water bottles in front of the Jacob Riis Houses.
Traces of the dangerous heavy metal in the Jacob Riis homes were reportedly “fake”.
James Keivom

Water was shut off that night and Mayor Eric Adams rushed to the scene, where he handed out bottles of water to tenants and declined to answer reporters’ questions about the unfolding crisis.

That same night, NYCHA’s chief spokesperson, Barbara Brancaccio, in a statement to The Post, denied the report that the agency received a result suggesting arsenic in the water before Friday.

Brancaccio also said in a phone call that there had been only one test positive for arsenic and that he arrived within hours of the decision to turn off the water.

City Hall’s own statement, released September 2, attempted to portray the positive test as a one-off.

“Preliminary results of retesting received today showed arsenic levels above the federal standard for drinking water,” it said in part.

City Hall and NYCHA did not respond to a request for comment as to why the Aug. 26 test had not been disclosed. Laboratory retracts results showing arsenic in water at NYCHA complex


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