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RIOC Struggles To Convince Users That Water Fountains Are Safe

Updated 41 weeks ago David Stone
RIOC Struggles To Convince Users That Water Fountains Are Safe

"After reviewing a second round of Roosevelt Island outdoor drinking-fountain water test results, a top New York State health official, in a statement released Tuesday, said the water is up to standard..." So goes a statement released yesterday by RIOC. Further reading shows troubling gaps and the standard lack of transparency in RIOC-speak.

See the complete release attached as a PDF below.

"The water samples were analyzed in three different categories: microbiological, inorganic analytes (metals) and physical factors; and included determining the existence of, and or levels of items such as bacteria, chloride, iron, lead and sulfates," the statement continues.

The average reader is going to take this as proof that the water fountains are and always have been safe. That's not true, and trouble is in what's not said.

For reasons known only to minds clustered behind the walls at 591 Main Street, RIOC chose not to release either the new report by Long Island Analytical, a New York State-certified laboratory, nor the earlier one by Healthy Buildings Inc. As a result, little or nothing can be concluded from what the statement says.

RIOC Struggles To Convince Users That Water Fountains Are Safe

Critical to any scientific testing is its methodology and rationale. What and when did they conduct their tests? What did they look for and why?

Many readers will assume that tests look for everything. That's never true. Tests look for specific things. If you don't test for trace minerals, arsenic for example, you won't find arsenic, even if it's there.

That's why Legionnaire's Disease killed dozens before it was found that a specific bacterium, legionella, was the cause. They weren't looking for it.

Of greater significance, because of the likely source of contamination, is when and how often samples were taken.

In a follow up, Public Information Officer Alonza Robertson told The Daily that each testing group took independent samples and got similar results, but that's a small part of the story.

Did either group take the fluidity of water systems sufficiently into account?

Not to belabor the obvious, but did they take multiple samples at times that replicated what real people would have experienced over a period of years? A reliably scientific test would.

Let me explain.

Since the likely source of contamination is RIOC's irrigation systems, which appear to lack proper controls and maintenance, tests would need to be taken at intervals before, during and after the sprinklers were in use, if they're to be taken as trustworthy.

Contamination happens when feces, pesticides, ambient bacteria, molds and viruses are sucked back into systems when they're turned off. Regulations from the federal Environmental Protection Agency on down to the City's DEP demand that certified backflow prevention devices, tested annually, be in use to prevent irrigation system contamination into public water supplies, including drinking fountains.

RIOC has repeatedly refused to answer questions about what devices it has or doesn't have.

In any case, feces sucked back into the water supply would not instantly show up in a water fountain or in Cornell Tech's residential building, for examples. When and where it shows up depends on usage, which will vary from day to day, and how it influences the flow of potential toxins into the public supply.

Because of RIOC's resistance to transparency, we just don't know if the testing is reliable, if the water is safe or not.

For background, readers are advised to check out the last time RIOC publicly made health claims after testing, an instance in which they were caught lying on video about toxic mold in the Cultural Center and never took responsibility or corrected the false claims.

Concerning the backflow devices, although the statement avoids mentioning them specifically, it says, "On July 23, RIOC hired a plumbing engineer, Cameron Engineering & Associates of New York, to complete an assessment of all water connection points from NYC water to Island parks’ distribution," information previously undisclosed for God only knows what reason.

We hope that, when that becomes available, RIOC's willing to be transparent and let the chips fall where they may.


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