The testing firm that reported unsafe levels of arsenic in tap water at an East Village public housing complex now says it got it wrong – its findings were incorrect.
Environmental Monitoring and Technologies Inc. (EMT) said in a statement Friday that an investigation showed “any contamination for arsenic” found in the water at the Jacob Riis complex to be well below federal limits for safe drinking.
The statement said the firm retracted “all arsenic results” from earlier tests. It also acknowledged that trace levels of arsenic had been introduced in samples from original testing Aug. 26 – as part of testing for silver.
The admission comes a week after the city warned the roughly 3,900 residents of Jacob Riis Houses, a 19-building complex overlooking the East River, that unsafe levels of arsenic had been detected in the tap water. Residents have been cautioned against drinking or cooking with the water.
“Needless to say to say, neither NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority) nor any other city agency will test water through Environmental Monitoring and Technologies any longer, and the city intends to pursue all available legal options on behalf of the residents of Riis Houses,” Fabien Levy, spokesperson for Mayor Eric Adams, said in a statement.
Calls to EMT, based in Des Plaines, Ill., were not immediately returned. The city still advises residents not to drink the water, pending the results of further testing city officials said they expect to be released Saturday.
On Wednesday, following the earlier findings of unsafe water, the city said testing by another firm found “no discernible amount of arsenic” in the water. It also pointed to belatedly released results revealing signs of another threat – Legionella, a dangerous bacteria, in water samples. But Charles Lutvak, another Adams spokesperson, cautioned that those results could be “inaccurate” as well.
The Friday statement from EMT said its original testing method of water samples reported on Aug. 26 – findings that it now disavows – included a test for silver, a process that “introduced trace levels of arsenic and a dilution factor correction.”
The firm said a subsequent test, conducted Thursday, and specifically for “arsenic, avoiding any contamination or factoring issues,” resulted in detection levels of arsenic that were “well below” federal standards. It said the new result “supersedes all prior analyses on this sample.”
Levy said additional testing by another firm, LiRo Environmental, showed Jacob Riis “has been free of any discernible amount of arsenic since the initial tests were initiated in August.” He added that LiRo tests for “a number of typical contaminants have now come back negative as well.”
Nonetheless, Levy said in the statement, residents were urged not to drink or cook with the water “until final test results are returned and analyzed.”
Arya Sundaram contributed to this article.
This article was updated: A first reference to the company Environmental Monitoring and Technologies Inc. was incorrect.