Unclear Why E. Side Water Runs Brown

Brown water has been pouring from East Siders’ faucets for weeks, and the Department of Environmental Protection doesn’t know why.

Problems started when the agency shut down one aqueduct for maintenance and began drawing water from the Croton system last month. That usually stirs up sediment and causes cloudy water for a day or two – but experts are stumped why it has persisted, on and off, for weeks.

“They claim it’s drinkable. How do I know? You don’t want to drink it,” said Susan London, 63, who lives on E. 24th St. “It just makes me concerned about my health.”

Crews hunting the problem found an unexpectedly open valve on the lower East Side last night, said DEP Deputy Commissioner Jim Roberts.

“They’ll go in some cases hydrant by hydrant to determine the pressure,” Roberts said. “There might be pockets of problems now.”

The water has passed all health and safety checks so far, city and state officials say, but DEP says the sediment may stain clothes in washing machines – and that people should let sediment settle out of their water before drinking it.

The water is close to exceeding allowable sediment standards, said James Tierney, the state’s assistant commissioner for water.

“They passed muster just barely in October, but November is looking pretty cloudy,” Tierney said. “We’re always making sure that things are monitored for safety.”

Councilman Dan Garodnick (D-Manhattan) said he has received complaints from all up and down the East Side from people frustrated at DEP’s lack of answers.

“They give no timetables,” Garodnick said. “They don’t explain what makes it brown.”

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