NYC officials say water at a public housing development has been cleared for drinking after a lab retracted false results that found high levels of arsenic

Last week, Fabien Levy, press secretary of New York City Mayor Eric Adams said on Twitter, water officials began testing water in August at Jacob Riis public housing after the city’s Housing Authority received reports of “cloudy water.” Preliminary results showed arsenic levels higher than federal standards and the city advised residents not to drink or cook until there was “more conclusive information,” Levy said last week.

On Friday, a week since that announcement, Levy said the lab that conducted those initial tests, Environmental Monitoring and Technologies, issued a “full retraction” of those results and called them “incorrect. “

“What’s worse, the company has now admitted to introducing arsenic into the samples, leading to false results,” Levy’s statement said. The lab released the results of a retest and found the samples were negative for arsenic, Levy added.

“We have now tested more than 140 points – both at the source and at the point of delivery – and we can confidently say that the water at Riis Houses has been free and free of any detectable amounts of arsenic since the first tests began in August ,” the statement added.

The city now intends to pursue “all available legal options” on behalf of the development’s residents, Levy added.

New York City Comptroller Brad Lander said on Twitter that even if the arsenic test was falsely positive, tenants in the development “deserve independent verification and compensation,” and highlighted their “fundamental broken trust and anger.”
In a news release attached to the city’s statement, the lab said it became aware of the situation Wednesday and “immediately initiated an internal investigation into the original results” that found elevated levels of arsenic. The company said the original testing method for the water samples reported in August included a test for silver, which required procedures that detected “trace or arsenic levels.” The new tests, conducted this week, excluded those methods, avoiding “all potential contamination,” the lab said, and retracted previous arsenic results.

CNN has reached out to the company for further comment.

On Saturday, Adams, the mayor, said the city’s health and mental hygiene department reviewed the final results and found that the water was “within EPA drinking water quality standards.”

The mayor added, he stopped the development and drank the water himself.

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“While the availability of basic drinking water is welcome news, this is the lowest. It is unacceptable that Environmental Monitoring and Technologies introduced arsenic in the samples which not only led to false results, but to fear, chaos, and tremendous inconvenience,” the mayor said in a statement Saturday.

In addition to pursuing legal options, the city will also look for ways to compensate residents for related expenses over the past week, the mayor said. City agencies will also no longer test water through a specific lab, he said.

The city also said earlier this week it had received results suggesting the “possible presence of Legionella bacteria,” but officials suspect those results were also inaccurate.

“As noted by public health experts, Legionnaires’ Disease cannot be acquired through drinking water,” the mayor said in his statement. “Furthermore, we are actively reviewing our Legionella surveillance data, and have found no reported or confirmed cases of Legionnaires Disease at Riis Houses in the past 12 months.”

CNN’s Nicki Brown contributed to this report.