NYCHA Resident Tests Positive for Arsenic Poisoning as City Urges Water is Clean

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Queens, NY

By Jessica Easthope

Beads of sweat form on Dennis Diaz’s forehead, but it’s not the late summer heat – it’s arsenicosis.

“Diarrhea, headaches, dizziness, sweating, vibration in my legs, really scary,” Dennis said of his symptoms.

On Saturday, Mayor Eric Adams announced tests showing traces of arsenic in the Riis Houses tap water were false. This coming days after the nearly 4,000 residents were told to stop drinking it. But Dennis, who’s lived in the complex his entire life, has a lot of questions he wants answered.

Dennis says if there was never any arsenic, what were those particles? And how could it be that a test showed he had a level of one milligram per deciliter of arsenic in his blood.

“I felt betrayed, I should be safe drinking water, we live in New York City in the United States,” he said.

The test was done days after he stopped drinking that water and started drinking the bottled water NYCHA was giving out. But Dennis said his doctor’s not convinced it’s making its way out of his system – because he’s still sick. He has to collect his own urine for 24 hours for another test. According to the CDC traces of arsenic stay in urine longer than blood.

“I’ll never lose my faith in God and in Jesus, I’m hoping this is out of my system with this next test,” said Dennis.

Only adding to Dennis’ confusion, according to a statement from mayor Eric Adams’ office, the lab that initially tested the water admitted to introducing arsenic into the samples that led to false results. Dennis says he doesn’t know who to believe.

“I suffer from mental illness and chronic panic and anxiety attacks, post-traumatic stress and on top of that this has got my head spinning,” Dennis said.

Currents News reached out to NYCHA but a spokesperson declined to comment. Other tests done by the same lab showed legionella bacteria present in the Riis Houses water; the city is claiming those results are also false. Despite the latest reports the city is still urging residents not to drink their tap water until final results are analyzed.