New York Times Investigates Rooftop Water Towers

A recent investigation by the New York Times detailed here looked into water contamination levels of the rooftop water towers installed throughout New York City. The towers became common in the 1800s as buildings became to tall to allow for adequate water pressure. Even today the city’s water mains only provide enough pressure to reach the sixth floor, water for higher floors is pumped to the rooftop water towers and gravity does the rest. The Times investigation discovered E. coli in 5 of 12 sampled water towers and coliforms (a commonly used indicator of fecal matter) in 8 of the 12 samples. However city officials claim that the water is safe and no illnesses have been traced back to the water towers. While the article is reasoned and doesn’t make overly broad claims about the water quality in NYC, it is hard to determine if this is a well thought out investigation into an area of public policy that needs more regulation, or unnecessary fear mongering.


One thought on “New York Times Investigates Rooftop Water Towers

  1. Although bringing something to the attention of the public May, in some cases, be considered fearmongering in this instance it seems more to be in the line of simply calling attention to the microbiology of our public water distribution systems. This topic has been of serious concern for many decades and has been studied by serious academic, public, and private sector scientists. Anne Camper of Montana State has written some excellent reviews of the topic, if you’d like to follow up.

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M Dunitz

Madison Dunitz is a researcher from Jonathan Eisen's lab.