Testing for arsenic in water continues at Manhattan housing complex

Residents of the New York City Housing Authority's Jacob Riis Houses in Manhattan still can't drink the water until the city gets more arsenic test results back. Until then, the city is providing running water in outdoor sinks and giving away bottled water.

The city took these emergency measures coming after water tests showed unsafe arsenic levels in some samples. However, subsequent test results showed no arsenic in samples that had been tested before, which added to confusion and prompted questions.

In a statement to FOX 5 NY on Tuesday evening, a spokesperson for Mayor Eric Adams said authorities were receiving "encouraging results" from water tests.

"All original water delivery points that were previously thought to test positive for arsenic have been retested and have now been found to be negative. We also tested approximately 140 additional sites, both at the source and at the point of delivery, and test results for arsenic at the 58 sites that have been returned so far suggest the water is safe," the spokesperson said in the statement. "However, the health and safety of residents remains our top priorities, which is why we are continuing to ask Riis Houses residents not to drink or cook with the water in their buildings until all test results are returned. We want to fully analyze all test results before any recommendations are made."

Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine criticized NYCHA and City Hall over the situation.

"This is just one more example of NYCHA residents being subjected to unacceptable conditions," Levine said. "The absolute minimum that everyone should be entitled to is certainty that their drinking water is safe." 

Arsenic ingested through drinking water can cause cancer, diabetes, and developmental disabilities in children, according to the World Health Organization.

Several residents told FOX 5 NY that they weren't properly notified of the danger or the need to avoid using their tap. Skepticism about safety in NYCHA housing runs high among residents. In recent years, they were told lead contamination wasn't a problem only to find that safety reports had been falsified. 

That scandal resulted in the appointment of a federal monitor, who is now also looking into the arsenic crisis and has asked NYCHA to retain all records related to arsenic testing.

"In the short term, we need to give this water a clean bill of health," Levine said. "Then we have serious questions to answer so that we can rebuild trust with the residents of Riis Houses and citywide among NYCHA residents."

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams told FOX 5 NY that NYCHA and the mayor's administration will need to answer a lot of questions.

The Jacob Riis complex, located on about 12 acres in the East Village, is home to more than 2,600 people. 

With FOX 5 NY's Sharon Crowley, Lisa Evers, Stephanie Bertini.