Officials' assurances over water safety at Jacob Riis Houses doesn't ease residents' concerns

Residents at the Jacob Riis Houses on the Lower East Side continue to raise concerns about their drinking water's safety, despite assurances from city officials.

Sheletha Hill has been living at the Jacbo Riis houses for over 20 years, but earlier this year she started to get concerned about her health when she noticed a rash on her body, loss of hair, and a burning sensation when she would drink.

She says her doctors ran tests and found high levels of arsenic. 

Two years ago, the residents of the Jacob Riis houses were concerned and anxious after arsenic was found in the drinking water of the NYCHA complex. After further testing, the city says it turned out to be a false positive, but residents were not satisfied with those results. 

Since then, many have been using bottled water, including Ms. Hill who only uses the running water to shower and brush her teeth.

Hill showed FOX 5 NY her medical records and letters from her doctors, in which they state that they are concerned for her health and would like her to be transferred out of the Riis houses. Hill says she has emailed all this documentation to NYCHA but is still waiting to hear back.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday Mayor Eric Adams came to the housing projects and drank a glass of tap water, in an effort to show that there is no reason to be concerned. 

Deputy Mayor Maria Torres-Springer says the water at the Riis Houses was tested last month. 

"I just want to be very clear that there is no arsenic in the water," Torres-Springer said. "There has never been in the city's housing supply."

Since 2022, more than 500 water test samples have been taken from roof tanks to inside apartments to other locations. That testing has shown conclusively no water quality concerns at Riis Houses.

The last of those tests happened as recently as last month, and the results of the 500 test samples are available publicly.

In a statement to FOX 5 NY, NYCHA said: "There is not and was never any arsenic in the water supply at Riis Houses. NYCHA tested over 500 water samples, and they all met the water quality standard for arsenic and conclusively show that there is no water quality concern in the drinking water at Riis Houses."