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Tenants at Jacob Riis Houses losing their patience with city's response to tap water arsenic concerns

NYCHA residents frustrated by response to water concerns
NYCHA residents frustrated by response to water concerns 02:21

NEW YORK -- For the fourth day, about 3,000 city residents are being advised to not drink or cook with the water in their own homes.

The latest test results by NYCHA at the Jacob Riis Houses show no arsenic was found, but further tests are needed.

CBS2's Astrid Martinez spoke with concerned tenants and city leaders as their patience wears thin.

"This is what they've been doing, the Housing. They've been calling us and telling us all everything is negative, but still 'don't drink the water,'" tenant Amanda Sanks said.

Still without tap water, NYCHA tenants' patience is running thin 02:45

Late Monday afternoon, NYCHA began alerting about the Jacob Riis residents that the latest test samples of water at the housing complex did not detect arsenic, after officials found a slight contamination last week.

But many tenants said they remain doubtful.

"Because at one point they were saying that it was negative. Then they came back and said it was positive. So it was  the back-and-forth with the residents, that they're losing their trust," Daphne Williams said.

The city is still waiting for additional results to come back from more than 100 different parts of the East Village housing complex. Out of an abundance of caution it is asking residents not to drink or cook with the tap water.

City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera was on site after the latest findings to ease residents' fears.

"We are demanding further testing because we previously had heard that arsenic was detected and now it is not. We are in a place where we have even more questions than we did previously," Rivera said.

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

"We're going to continue to demand testing and support for the families -- water, food, and figure out going forward what the consequences are going to be for the city," Rivera said.

Dozens of tenants began complaining about milky water three weeks ago, but said no one listened. 

"As we said Friday, there is no evidence connecting the arsenic levels to cloudy water," a spokesperson for the mayor's office said. 

"Parents didn't know and they was using the water to mix their babies' milk, powdered milk, taken baths, drinking, taking medication," tenant Bridget Tuck said.

"Why nobody told us this?" tenant Tashaka Owens said.

"I'm kind of scared, you know, of how this is going to go in the future," 13-year-old Akeilles Esquilin said.

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

However, the Housing Authority ran out of bottled water Monday and instead was giving out water in cans.

"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 take it. She's 90 years old," another tenant said.

For residents with children or serious health issues, this is becoming a water emergency.

"I don't think I'm ever going to trust the water after that because that's scary. We're not talking about little stuff here. We're talking about poison," tenant Stacey Hemby said.

The city did put out makeshift sinks for people to get water from fire hydrants, but residents told CBS2 it's difficult to bring this water up 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 stop by the complex on Friday and Sunday to take photos with residents getting water. The mayor's office says the rest of the city's water supply is safe to drink.

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