Thousands of residents of Jacob Riis homes in the East Village are spending Labor Day weekend drinking bottled water while worrying about arsenic found in their faucets.
The water in the sprawling NYCHA housing estate smells bad and is often brown or cloudy, according to residents, who were warned on Friday not to drink or cook with water from their apartment taps.
Bottled water was being distributed to residents by the New York City Housing Authority, which said it would provide supplies until the water in buildings was safe to use.
“I’m scared,” said Ivonne Sanchez, 62, a longtime resident of Jacob Riis, who is afraid of having water on her skin.
She said NYCHA distributed one case of bottled water per family per day, which was not enough for her household of four.
“How am I supposed to make this work? ” she says. “It’s horrible.”
Residents were first advised not to use the water on Friday, according to the mayor’s office and the New York City Housing Authority. A report in The City, however, said NYCHA discovered the arsenic two weeks ago. NYCHA disputed this report.
“They gave us water but the problem is still there,” said Gloria Hecealo, 82, a pensioner who has lived at the Riis Houses for 31 years. “They say you can supposedly shower but not get water in your eyes, mouth, face.”
“No one from NYCHA communicates with us,” she added.
NYCHA did not respond to a request for additional information from the Daily News on Sunday.
Large doses of arsenic can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and shock. Long-term exposure to arsenic in drinking water can lead to skin disorders, diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I’m scared because I read that arsenic is carcinogenic,” said Valentina Ramos, 59, also a retiree and a longtime resident of the housing estate. “We have been using this water for how long?
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“They’ve known about it for two weeks and they haven’t contacted us,” she said.
Nearly 4,000 people live in the Jacob Riis Houses between Avenue D and FDR Drive, one of the city’s largest public housing developments.
Crews from the city’s Environmental Protection Department were testing water for the project, according to a Saturday night tweet from City Comptroller Brad Lander.
“NYCHA has long been the worst landlord in town,” Jumaane Williams, the city’s public attorney, said on Twitter after his office released a report on conditions across the city last week.
“No one can be truly surprised by these revelations anymore, but they are still shocking and infuriating,” Williams tweeted.
Carmen Jones, who has lived in Riis homes for 49 years, and other residents say they only learned about arsenic through word of mouth.
“Now I have to go to the doctor and find out if it affects me and my husband,” she said. “I use tap water to wash my dishes, but what can you do? »