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Report: Some Of City’s Rooftop Water Tanks Are Plagued With Contaminants

A rooftop water tank in Brooklyn. (Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

A rooftop water tank in Brooklyn. (Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A dozen city buildings have been slapped with fines, after a newspaper investigation discovered contaminants in their rooftop water tanks.

The investigation by the New York Times focused on the rooftop water tanks that are mounted on buildings old and new around the city. The newspaper reported that the tanks are often caked with muddy sediment and have not been inspected in several years – even though they are still used as holding tanks for buildings’ drinking water.

The newspaper investigation sampled water from 12 tanks in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, and found that five tested positive for E. coli. Other coliform bacteria were found in all those five tanks and three more, the newspaper reported.

The tanks are part of the city water system that originates at 19 protected reservoirs and lakes upstate, but building owners are responsible for cleaning, inspecting and testing for bacteria every year, the newspaper reported.

The city said almost 60 percent of building owners do not comply with water tank inspection requirements, and the law has not been enforced.

Following the New York Times report, the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said buildings in the survey were hit with $700,000 in fines, and the department would continue to conduct annual surveys. But there is no plan to expand the regulatory laws on water tanks, the paper reported.

Wooden rooftop water tanks have been in widespread use since the 19th century, the newspaper reported. They are found in more limited numbers in numerous other cities – including Chicago and Detroit. But in New York, the tanks are still in wide use, and constructed newly, both to provide water and maintain water pressure.

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