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Several women incarcerated at two New York maximum-security prisons have fallen ill after drinking contaminated water caused by the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
The facilities which are located in the small town of Bedford Hills in Hamlet, just 40 miles north of New York City, were slammed with devastating torrential rain and flooding after Ida hit the Northeast on September 1, NBC News reported. Representatives from The Bedford Hills Correctional Facility For Women and the nearby Taconic Correctional Facility told the outlet that the water contamination problem stemmed from issues caused by the powerful hurricane.
Brittany Austin, an inmate incarcerated at Bedford Hils, said that on the morning after Ida, prisoners complained of the water having “a foul-smelling odor.” “It smelled like a mixture between sulfur and copper and it tasted like dirt and chemicals. There was chatter about it the entire day,” she explained. Now women in both facilities are struggling to access fresh bottled water, but both prison commissaries are severely understocked the report notes. Inmates have been instructed to boil the water before drinking it, but they say it doesn’t help to get rid of its nasty taste.
Austin, who is a member of the prison’s Inmate Liaison Committee, said at least 40 people complained of stomach issues after consuming the contaminated water. All of them were sent back to their cells without treatment.
Kevin Winn, Bedford’s Commissioner of Public Works, released an update about the issue on the town’s website on September 3, revealing that the tainted water may have stemmed from the Town of Bedford switching its primary water source. The Consolidated Water District, which services both facilities, switched from using its primary water source, the Delaware Aqueduct, to its backup source, the Cross River Reservoir, on August 31–a day before Hurricane Ida made landfall.
According to the update, the district switched back to its primary water source the following day, but officials immediately received an outpour of complaints from town residents regarding the water’s taste and pungent odor.
“The Cross River Supply can have higher levels of algae than the Delaware supply, and has other different water quality characteristics which can generate higher taste and odor than our customers are used to,” Winn wrote.
While the town doesn’t monitor the quality of the water inside both prisons, Winn shared that he was “informed by correctional facility staff earlier this week that the water taste and odor had returned to normal.” The water quality has slightly improved over the last week, but women incarcerated at Bedford Hills and Taconic are still pleading with the town to do more about the issue, as they feel as though their health and safety are being disregarded.
“I feel like nobody cares,” one female inmate reportedly said to news officials, the New York Post added.
“Nobody checked on us or compensated the loss of the fresh, clean, safe drinking water with bottled water to us for free.”
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