At a preliminary budget hearing on Monday, New York City Housing Authority chair Shola Olatoye testified before the City Council that the city recently tested the water in random, vacant public housing units. The tests were conducted “out of an abundance of caution” to check for elevated lead levels.
Earlier this month, federal prosecutors disclosed that they were investigating elevated blood-lead levels in buildings operated by NYCHA, as well as possible false claims made in order to garner federal funding.
Olatoye said at the hearing that elevated lead levels were found in the water collected immediately after the faucet being turned on in 13 out of 175 randomly selected units. Only one unit showed elevated levels after letting the water run. “The Department of Health, DEP and others will go back and retest all of those units according to protocol and ensure that if any issues were found—particularly in that one—[they are] abated,” the Housing Authority’s chair said. Politico New York reports:
A NYCHA spokesperson said after the hearing that the city had reviewed the test results and concluded that flushing clears stagnant water, and that most of the apartments would not have had lead under usual conditions of household use. The one that did test positive after flushing would be further assessed.
Between 2009 and 2014, NYCHA has inspected more than 12,000 apartments and conducted 6,131 abatements, city officials have said. NYCHA performs more than 1,000 lead tests annually. Mayor Bill de Blasio has sought to reassure tenants that there is not a problem, and that, if there is, the city will work with the federal government to resolve it. “Of course we will cooperate in every way,” he said, after the investigation was made public.
“We have a very aggressive inspection and abatement program and that is certainly being carried out in the housing authority and has been for years,” he continued. “We’ll share any information we have.”
City Comptroller Scott Stringer, whose office has audited NYCHA several times, found as recently as July that the Housing Authority was not sufficiently issues of sanitation and cleanliness. (In large part because its budget has been gutted.) In a statement this month, the comptroller said, “My office’s audit showed clearly how NYCHA failed in its efforts to eliminate hazardous conditions in our City’s public housing, including leaks, mold and mildew that had gone un-remediated for years.” He continued: “The U.S. attorney’s investigation raises further serious concerns about NYCHA’s operations and management.”