Contamination from Irrigation Systems Suspected

RIOC Forced To Shut Down Water Fountains Island-Wide

Updated 50 weeks ago David Stone
Safe or unfit for human and animal consumption? Has RIOC contaminated public water supplies?
Safe or unfit for human and animal consumption? Has RIOC contaminated public water supplies?
File photo

In a startling after hours "Community Update" on Friday, July 6th, RIOC announced that it was shutting down all Roosevelt Island water fountains over concerns about contamination from its irrigation systems, concerns RIOC unintentionally raised during the fiasco that evolved after turning off water to the Southpoint Cat Sanctuary.

In June, after being challenged by The Daily about several rationales apparently created on the fly, RIOC finally said it would be wrong to reconnect the supply because the water was contaminated through connecting with its irrigation system.

This raised a number of questions, such as why had RIOC supplied bad water to the sanctuary for years without notification? More important, we believe, is the question of what the State agency is doing to prevent contamination in numerous other, poorly managed irrigation systems, Island-wide.

City regulations require that all in-ground sprinkler systems, like those RIOC uses to irrigate public property, be outfitted with backflow prevention devices that keep contaminates - feces, insecticides, fertilizers - from seeping back into the water supply. It's a not uncommon issue.

RIOC refused to answer our questions, even about whether or not they had appropriate safeguards to protect public drinking water.

Now, the State may regret opening Pandora's Box in a fatuous attempt to wriggle free from responsibility for the cat sanctuary mess because Island resident Frank Farance, following up on the story, claims to have discovered that RIOC is feeding irrigation system water, that is, non-potable water unfit for human or animal consumption, to at least one public fountain, the Al Lewis Park Children's Fountain.

RIOC did not deny the allegation and, instead, moved swiftly to shut down all Island drinking fountains. 

A larger, more concerning part of this developing story, is that this situation is not new. If unfit drinking water is being supplied to the fountains now, it also has been for years, and there's no guarantee that the Al Lewis Children's Fountain is the only one.

Farance found another problem.

Federal OSHA regulations require, "Outlets for non-potable water, such as water for industrial or firefighting purposes, shall be posted or otherwise marked in a manner that will indicate clearly that the water is unsafe and is not to be used for drinking, washing of the person, cooking, washing of food, washing of cooking or eating utensils, washing of food preparation or processing premises, or personal service rooms, or for washing clothes."

RIOC has no such postings anywhere.

Farance demanded that the Al Lewis Children's Fountain be shut down, and RIOC complied, taking it a step further.

Here is the full text of RIOC's "Community Update."

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) announced Friday that it will shut down drinking water fountains on the Island while it investigates potential water source line issues.

RIOC thanks Island resident Frank Farance for sharing his concerns about the fountains with RIOC.

Independent consultants have been enlisted to assist RIOC with its review.

RIOC did not identify its "independent consultants" or the extent of their work, and there is no indication that RIOC will share the findings and any risks to the health of Roosevelt Island residents, past and future.


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