Body in reservoir identified as man, 29, missing since February; Boil water notice has ended

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Abdullahi Muya, a 29-year-old who had been missing for over a month, has been identified as the man whose body was found in the Highland Park Reservoir, according to the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Mayor Malik Evans made the announcement at a news conference on Thursday. According to Evans, Muya entered the gated area around the reservoir the morning on February 24. Soon after, he slid down the side of the reservoir into the water and died.

“It does not appear that there is any criminal element to this investigation,” said Evans. No one was around Muya when he entered the reservoir.

City of Rochester Water Bureau employees found the body on Tuesday morning while they were making their rounds. Evans said the reservoir is 15-feet-deep and Muya’s body was well below the surface. The Rochester Police Department’s SCUBA Team removed the body and the city issued a boil water advisory for areas that relied on the reservoir. That advisory ended early Thursday morning.

Muya’s brother spoke to News10NBC earlier this month about the search for his missing family member. His brother said it wasn’t like Muya to disappear and to stop contacting his family. Muya was last seen at his home on Van Aucker Street on February 18.

“Our heartfelt condolences go out to the Muya family who have diligently been searching for him since he went missing,” Evans said.

Abdullahi Muya (provided photo)

After the body was found, the city stopped using the reservoir, relying on the two other reservoirs instead. Tests indicated that the water quality was safe and the city lifted the boil water advisory after the test results kept coming back as safe. The city says it will continue its work to drain, clean, and refill the Highland Park Reservoir through the next few months.

The Rochester City School District will resume school on Thursday because the boil water advisory has ended. The district canceled classes on Wednesday and said it was waiting on test results in the morning to decide whether to resume school.

Evans said Muya’s death calls into question how someone can get into the fenced-in reservoir without getting detected. He said the reservoir is surrounded by cameras — including some with heat and motion sensors. The reservoir is also patrolled regularly by City of Rochester Water Bureau staff, and there’s real-time monitoring of water quality in the reservoir.

“This area is so sensitive that it can even alert us if a windstorm is coming. And yet, we did not know that Mr. Muya had gotten into the area or entered the water,” Evans said.

He said the city is working to address any gaps in security to prevent people from breaching reservoirs. Evans said there is still a lot unclear about how Muya got into the reservoir.

It took five hours after discovering the body to issue the boil water advisory on Tuesday. A city spokesperson says there was never a major concern, but the decision was out of an abundance of caution.

On Tuesday morning, city leaders met with the Monroe County Department of Environmental Health, and were ordered to issue the advisory. One specific bacteria, coliform, takes 16-24 hours to test for.

In the meantime, businesses like Happy Earth Tea on South Avenue got creative with bottled and distilled water, doing away with dishes and shortening the menu.

“We felt a bit underinformed, but nevertheless, we had a boil water advisory a few years ago, so we sort of knew the kinds of steps that we needed to take,” said owner Niraj Lama. “Under these circumstances people are feeling stressed, overwhelmed… So I think it’s important for them to have a place to go.”

The boil water advisory impacted mostly areas to the west side of the Genesee River and downtown, since the Highland Park Reservoir serves those areas.

Boil Water Advisory

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RPD respond to Highland Park Reservoir (Photo: WHEC)