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Lab retracts results that showed arsenic in NYCHA complex water


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

Environmental Monitoring and Technologies called the initial results that showed traces of the dangerous heavy metal at the Jacob Riis Houses “incorrect,” according to a Friday statement from City Hall press secretary Fabien Levy.

But despite the retraction, city officials again warned the residents of the complex on Friday to continue to avoid drinking the water pending additional tests – extending the now-week-long shutoff.

“[O]ut of an abundance of caution, we are continuing to ask Riis House residents not to drink or cook with the water in their building,” said Levy.

Levy said that the firm, Environmental Monitoring and Technologies, would be barred from working with city agencies again.

The lab "admitted to being the ones that introduced" the toxic compound in the samples.
Residents lining up to get water at the Jacob Riis Houses last week.
William Farrington

The lab’s statement, aside from sharing its retraction, also spurned new controversy as it revealed that city officials had been aware of at least one positive test for the dangerous substance for at least a week before telling residents to stop drinking the water.

It revealed that there were two – ultimately flawed – tests that came back positive: One on Aug. 26; and the second on Sept. 1.

The findings contradict repeated statements by City Hall and the Housing Authority that there had only been one test positive for arsenic.

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

NYCHA gave out bottled waters outside Jacob Riis Houses.
Traces of the dangerous heavy metal at the Jacob Riis Houses were reportedly “incorrect.”
James Keivom

The water was shut off that night and Mayor Eric Adams rushed to the scene, where he distributed water bottles to tenants and refused to take questions from reporters about the unfolding crisis.

The same night, in a statement to The Post, NYCHA’s top spokeswoman Barbara Brancaccio disputed the report that said the agency received a result prior to Friday indicating arsenic in the water.

Brancaccio also said in a phone conversation there had only been one test positive for arsenic and that it had come within hours of the decision to shut off the water.

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

“Preliminary results received today from retesting showed arsenic levels higher than the federal standard for drinking water,” it read in part.

City Hall and NYCHA did not respond to a request for comment on why the Aug. 26 test had not been disclosed.


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