As curtains continue to unveil illegal and potentially dangerous activity by the New York Housing Authority, attention is now being turned on water towers in public housing.
According to a recent published report, records on inspections done on water tanks on roofs of NYCHA buildings disappeared. Many of the wooden tanks, which contained drinking water, were contaminated with dead animals, insects and other floating debris.
By law, NYCHA must document and report the condition of its water tanks to the health department. Private companies are contracted to maintain and clean water tanks in NYCHA.
Some inspections were even whited-out with reports about unsanitary conditions. The trend in water tanks is so disturbing that those in the water industry say it is common to find unsanitary conditions in public housing water tanks. Between 2015 and 2017, nearly 50 reports describe things such as dead birds and squirrels in tanks.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, dead animals in drinking water can carry microbial pathogens, which can cause waterborne diseases.
The city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said in a statement that it’s working with NYCHA to improve inspection requirements.
“There is no evidence that the water from water tanks raises any public health concern, and there has never been a sickness or outbreak traced back to a water tank,” the department said.
Residents often complain about dark water that’s the color of coffee several times a month in several buildings. Some are afraid to even drink or bathe with the water.
“They always claim to be cleaning the water in that tower,” one resident said in an interview “But they don’t seem to do a very good job.”
“While our water tank cleaning and inspections are reliable, we will review the filing of our inspection forms to ensure they reflect this effort accurately,” a NYCHA representative said in a statement.
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson recently announced that he’s taking charge of the situation after the release of the report. In response to the article, Johnson is hosting an emergency meeting at Chelsea Houses.
“The reports on contamination in NYCHA water tanks are appalling,” said Johnson. “This is unacceptable in my district, and it’s unacceptable anywhere in the five boroughs. NYCHA needs to get its act together—quickly. The hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who live in NYCHA buildings deserve better.”
Among NYCHA’s other issues, including lead and mold, water has been a major problem in public housing for many years.
Late last month, thousands of residents in Brevoort Houses had to hull water with buckets from a station after they were left without regular running water for 10 days in 900 apartments. NYCHA workers were reported cleaning a water tank when the water couldn’t be turned back on.
Elected officials, including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, called the situation similar to that of a Third World country.
“It sounds a lot like a developing country. But it’s not only in the wealthiest country, but one of the wealthiest cities in America,” said Councilwoman Alicka Ampry-Samuel.
NYCHA said in a statement it is monitoring the water at Brevoort Houses.