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Tuesday, October 9, 2018

What's The Safety Status Of Roosevelt Island Drinking Water Fountains? RIOC Invites Public To Water Quality Test Results Follow Up Meeting Wednesday Morning October 10

According to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC):

Community Update

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) is hosting a follow-up meeting Wednesday, October 10 at 10:30 a.m. to discuss the recent water test results of various Roosevelt Island drinking fountains.

This meeting is a follow-up to an initial meeting, held September 14 with the Roosevelt Island Residents Association, to answer additional questions about the testing results the public felt were unanswered.

WATCH the video of the first meeting here:

Dr. Roger C. Sokol, director of the Division of Environmental Health Protection, NYS Department of Health (available by teleconference); and various RIOC senior officials will be presenting information about the testing, the results and potential remediation plans.

The meeting will be held at the RIOC offices at 680 Main Street (just east of Gristedes supermarket).

If you wish to ask questions, please send your name and contact information to Alonza Robertson at or via telephone at 212.832.4540.
 Image From Frank Farance

Tomorrow's meeting is a follow up to the September 14 RIOC meeting with representatives of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA). The local press and other members of the public were not allowed to attend the September 14 meeting.

On September 21 RIOC added:
It appears that certain members of the Roosevelt Island community are misinterpreting data from our two recent laboratory tests of water samples from Island drinking fountains and are causing undue alarm.

After reviewing a second round of Roosevelt Island outdoor fountain water laboratory test results, a health official from the NYS Department of Health, in a statement we released August 8, said the water is up to standard.

“With the exception of Capobianco Park, the review of water quality results - analyzed the second time by a New York State Department of Health Environmental Laboratory Approval Program certified laboratory (Long Island Analytical Laboratory Inc.,) are consistent with the water quality being delivered by the New York City water system and meet all applicable drinking water standards,” said Roger C. Sokol, Ph.D., director of the Division of Environmental Health Protection, NYS Department of Health....
RIRA sent the following September 24 letter to RIOC President Susan Rosenthal regarding the September 14 meeting:
Re: September 14 Meeting re Quality Concerns of RIOC Maintained Public Fountains

After our meeting on Sept. 14 to discuss the Roosevelt Island drinking fountain water testing results, it came to our attention that the full 79-page water testing report completed by Long Island Analytics was never disclosed to us. While you gave us two double-sided copied pages from that report with the "Volatiles" results of the Capobianco fountains buried inside, there was no executive summary attached as a face page and we were not afforded an opportunity to look thoroughly at these pages, either in preparation for or during, the session. Nor was it fully disclosed to us that the Healthy Buildings report which was provided at the meeting was the first and not the second set of testing. Neither the "Volatiles" results nor the findings that there were coliforms in fountains in Southpoint Park and Lighthouse Park were discussed at all.

The purpose of the meeting was for RIOC to fully disclose and report to us and the community as to RIOC's findings regarding the water systems and water testing. It was not to be an exercise where community attendees were to sift through the reports on the spot, identify all the problems, and ask questions about them. Based on what had happened during the meeting and what we understand now, the community can only surmise that RIOC did not want to discuss and fully disclose the aforementioned results with the public. It is small wonder that the bloggers on the Island believe that RIOC has deliberately kept the most damaging information from us and the community, especially since that is exactly what happened.

With regard to the total coliforms positive tests, during the session Dr. Sokol of the New York State Department of Environmental Protection stated that it was not unusual for total coliforms to be high when pipes had been turned off for a significant period of time and there was standing water in them. In July, however, after RIOC released an announcement saying the fountains had been turned off, both of ourselves, Rossana Ceruzzi and Mickey Rindler, visited Southpoint Park on behalf of the Island Services Committee and found that, in fact, the fountains were on and operational. The water fountains were never turned off as represented. Therefore, we demand that the fountains with positive coliform tests in both parks be turned off immediately and that they be retested for bacteria next spring before they are commissioned for public use. Similarly, we insist that the fountain at Blackwell House not be turned back on until it is retested and certified as safe.

Concerning the high levels of methylene chloride found in the fountains at Capobianco Field, Dr. Sokol, in his letter of August 17, also indicated that the detected levels were likely coming from glue to connect plastic piping, which we assume was what was used to construct or repair the water system in this field. This is very alarming to us because, if that is the case, then the sprinkler system water had the chemical as well and copious amounts of it were disseminated onto the field regularly. Hence, we are extremely concerned that even those using the field who did not drink from the water fountain were also exposed to this volatile potential carcinogen which can enter the body through the skin and, since it is volatile, the lungs. Moreover, chemicals generally leech out in an exponential fashion over time, meaning that the levels being measured now are, no doubt, much, much lower than those that were present soon after the actual contamination commenced.

In light of both recently discovered information, the results of our meeting and the above, we demand that
  1. RIOC identify the source of the methylene chloride and inform RIRA and the public. If it is determined to likely be the glue used to connect pipes we demand to know when the work was performed and who did it.
  2. RIOC inform RIRA and the public as to how and when you plan to correct the problem or replace the water system and what steps will be taken to prevent such contamination in the future.
To say that we and the community are severely disappointed with the disposition of our meeting and the actions of RIOC, and that all of our and the community's questions were answered during the September 14 meeting, is a severe understatement. Categorizing our September 14 meeting and the events that have transpired after as truthful and comforting is nothing more than pure spin on the part of RIOC on an already worsening and alarming situation.

We await your prompt response on these matters.


Rossana Ceruzzi & Mickey Rindler Co-Chairs, RIRA Island Services Committee

Jeffrey R. Escobar
President, Roosevelt Island Residents Association
RIOC has not responded to RIRA's letter.

More info on this matter at prior post.