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Are Poorly Maintained Rooftop Water Tanks Ruining NYC Drinking Water?

Millions of New Yorkers get their daily drinking water from rooftop water tanks. But a recent New York Times report shows that these tanks are rarely maintained properly and could be harboring unsafe bacteria as well as other health hazards. New York City landlord laws require testing but the system is poorly designed and many apartments fall through the cracks.

Inspections of several tanks showed layers of muddy sediment at the bottom and even those that were regularly maintained were found to be breeding grounds for E. coli bacteria. Indeed, the paper sampled water from 14 tanks across Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn and found E. coli in 5. Coliform bacteria (from the feces of birds and animals) were found in three more. Additionally, reporters uncovered anecdotal evidence suggesting that building supers had found animal bodies in water tanks as well as homeless individuals living in the crawl spaces.

While New York City officials boast of offering some of the finest quality tap water of any urban area in the world, the responsibility for maintaining the cleanliness of the water shifts to the individual building owner. These owners are required, by law, to clean and maintain these tanks and are required to regularly test the water for bacteria and other contaminants. However, official NYC records show that roughly 60% (over half) do not comply.

Legislation passed in 2009 also requires that the results of those tests be made available to building residents-though many owners fail to do so.

As the Times reports, building owners aren't even required to submit proof of testing to the city. Instead, the City relies on random samplings and passive monitoring system that tracks hospital visits (which officials say should, theoretically, catch outbreaks at the building level).

If you or a loved one has become ill because of drinking water contamination, contact a personal injury attorney immediately. Such illnesses are covered under premises liability law in New York City and injured individuals may successfully sue for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Call the Law Offices of Nussin S. Fogel for a free consultation at (800) 734-9338 or (212) 385-1122 to learn your rights.

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