Inwood Residents Complain of Brown Tap Water

By Carla Zanoni | January 27, 2012 8:09am

INWOOD — A flood of complaints about brown water flowing through at least a dozen Inwood apartment faucets earlier this week has some residents concerned and community leaders on high alert. 

The complaints began pouring in on Monday night when residents in apartments between Dyckman and 218th streets began noticing brown water flowing from their taps. 

Todd Keithley, 41, said he and his wife Meredith first noticed the water on Monday night. To be on the safe side, they stopped serving the water to their 8-month-old daughter and 4-year-old son. 

“It's just common sense that you don't drink brown water,” Keithley said. “I wasn't too concerned, but we have young children so we erred on the side of caution."

He then called 311, as did at least 15 households in Inwood, according to parents who posted on a local parenting email list.   

After receiving complaints, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) ran tests on the water on Tuesday. The results came back normal, a department spokeswoman said. 

“There was nothing found. The water is safe to drink,” she said. 

The DEP then ran area fire hydrants to flush the area water main system as a precaution, according to the department.

Isaiah Bing, an engineer with expertise in environmental issues who has worked with water treatment issues, questioned the results.

The assistant chair for Community Board 12’s Health & Environment Committee, Bing added that he recently heard increased reports of brown water in the district and would like to see the DEP increase its testing and reporting of water in the area.

“If you’re picking up brown nasty water on a consistent basis, you really want to pay attention to what might be in that water,” he said. 

Bing said in addition to high bacteria counts in the water, numerous conditions can contribute to brown water, including older plumbing and decaying wooden water towers. 

“Often the water is good, but when it comes into an antiquated system it can pick up sediment,” he said. “You really have to be a detective, because there can be so many reasons.”

Bing said he would call on the DEP to “ramp up” its testing and work with the community board to find the cause of the brown water. 

Bing said he plans to discuss the issue during CB12’s health and environment committee meeting on Feb. 2. The meeting, at the board's office at 711 W. 168th St., is scheduled for 7 p.m.