According to the report, less than half of buildings reported the conditions of their water tanks between 2015 and 2017. Thousands of building owners have never filed any information with city officials.
Worse yet, the city allows inspections to be conducted after a tank has been disinfected and cleaned, rendering the tests useless. Local lawmakers now want to change that.
Last Friday, Astoria Councilman Costa Constantinides announced a proposed bill that would require the Department of Health to conduct unannounced inspections of water tanks on top of all public and private buildings.
The bill would then require the agency to post the findings online so residents can search and learn about the conditions of their water.
“Having clean water is a right,” Constantinides said. “You shouldn’t have to worry about what’s floating in your water tank and worry about getting sick.”
The councilman noted that until 2009, water tanks in some 10,000 buildings were “hardly regulated.” Legislation passed in recent years required building owners to report once a year that they’ve been inspected.
The report concluded that sometimes, inspectors find dead pigeons, rats and cockroaches inside the tanks. Sediments, which are more common, were also found floating inside.
Constantinides said these conditions can serve as a “breeding ground” for harmful bacteria and illnesses.
“This nightmarish soup is the drinking water for thousands of New Yorkers,” he said.
The legislation is backed by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Manhattan Councilman Mark Levine and Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres.
On Friday, Bronx Deputy Borough President Marricka Scott-McFadden said the city has seen devastating outbreaks of Legionnaires Disease, a form of pneumonia caused by contaminated water. She said the water tanks tend to be a breeding ground for the disease.
“This legislation would bring a much-needed, new level of transparency and safety to the city’s water tanks,” Scott-McFadden said.
When asked what the unannounced inspections would involve, Constantinides said they’re still drafting the legislation to make sure they “get it right.”
As for how often the checks would be made, the councilman said he would leave it to the Department of Health’s discretion to create that regulation.
Lawmakers will also consider upping the penalties for unclean water tanks as a way to deter building owners from neglecting the structures.
“We’ll look to get that done,” Constantinides said.
A Department of Health spokesperson said the agency is still reviewing the bills.