David Stone
RIOC Refuses To Answer Questions About Contaminating Our Water Supply

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation set off alarms on Friday, releasing a statement that their practices in irrigating Southpoint contaminate the Southpoint water supply, making it unfit for drinking. The statement was more disturbing in light of their recent threat to charge the WFF Cat Sanctuary for using the same water.

"Irrigation system water, like the one WFF was using, is not potable; that means the water is not suitable for drinking by humans or animals since it’s contaminated by fertilizer, pesticides, feces and other contaminates," wrote RIOC Public Information Officer Alonza Robertson, responding to a flood of complaints about the State agency's shutting off the sanctuary's water supply.

It was, curiously, the first time RIOC made this claim, and just weeks earlier, in a meeting with WFF, Parks and Recreation Director Mary Cuneen suggested they would start charging the nonprofit for using the same water they now say is contaminated.

In a follow up, Robertson elaborated, "An irrigation system sprinkler head often reabsorbs the water that is distributed on the grass, that might contain some of these contaminants, and does not have backwater prevention devices. A drinking water line is not subjected to this and they have backwater prevention devices."

But the City Department of Environmental Protection, according to its website, does require backwater prevention devices on in-ground sprinkler systems like RIOC's.

The reasons are obvious. Sprinkler systems are fed from the same City source as its drinking water. There is no separate sprinkler system supply. Backwater prevention devices are what separates one from the other, and Robertson says RIOC does not use any. Presumably, this is an Island-wide problem with RIOC controlled sprinkler systems threatening water supplies in many locations.

We asked reasonable questions.

When RIOC failed to answer after 3 days, we asked again.

"Would you like to come in for a meeting?" Robertson answered. "Susan (CEO/President Rosenthal) has requested that we try answer your questions thoroughly in person about the differences between the irrigation system line and the domestic water line, their sources and backwater prevention devices."

This is a "big-me, little-you" gambit often used by RIOC. It suggests the questioner is too much of an idiot to understand such things without being schooled by RIOC's experts.

And it completely avoids the questions.

We refuse with good reasons.

Experience has taught us that private meetings with RIOC do not produce credible results, and they do not protect against RIOC's deniability down the road.

We told Robertson that we needed written responses that could be preserved and verified, adding, "In light of what can best be described as RIOC’s “evolving” explanations for shutting off water at the sanctuary, credibility is at a minimum."

We repeated our request, now for a third time.

"Is there something that prevents you from answering the simple questions asked? If the irrigation (sprinkler) system taps into the City water supply, there is no difference unless there are devices installed to separate them, including backflow prevention. This isn’t complicated. If RIOC taps into the City water supply, what devices are in place to protect against contamination, especially as it pertains to the cat sanctuary. And of great concern, readers would like to know when RIOC discovered that the sanctuary was getting contaminated water and what steps were taken, including notifications to WFF, to protect the feral population."

RIOC chose to remain silent. The cat sanctuary remains without a reliable source of water as summer heats up. RIOC has already said they are contaminating the Southpoint supply without notifications to anyone.

Why won't they answer for public consumption?

Is there even a chance that our elected officials with get out of their comfort zones long enough to do something about RIOC or has Governor Cuomo got them all living in fear of upsetting him?

There's a simple guiding principal for investigative reporting. It's this: People with nothing to hide don't hide anything.

What is RIOC hiding?