Drinking Water Shut Off In All Detroit Public Schools After Testing Reveals Elevated Levels Of Metals

While access to drinking water has been turned off, water required for toilets and hand-washing is still available

Elevated levels off copper and lead are cause for concern in Detroit schools
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While access to drinking water has been turned off, water required for toilets and hand-washing is still available

A new round of water testing has resulted in water being cut to all Detroit schools. The testing found high levels of lead and copper in the water, both of which can cause long-term damage.

According to Crain’s Detroit Business, 34 of the schools affected are now using water coolers and bottles. In total, 106 schools in Detroit have had their water shut off.

The results of the testing showed that “16 out of 24 schools had elevated levels of lead and/or copper.” As a result of this, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti issued an email on Tuesday afternoon alerting his staff to the findings.

The tests were conducted as a result of earlier findings in 2016 that showed “elevated levels of the metals.” With initial results coming in and showing a correlation between present testing and the earlier 2016 testing, the decision was made to close off all of Detroit’s schools drinking water.

“Although we have no evidence that there are elevated levels of copper or lead in our other schools (over 50) where we are awaiting test results, out of an abundance of caution and concern for the safety of our students and employees, I am turning off all drinking water in our schools until a deeper and broader analysis can be conducted to determine the long-term solutions for all schools,” Vitti said via an emailed statement on Wednesday morning.

While staff and students no longer have access to the tainted drinking water, there is still water available for hand-washing and toileting requirements.

Letters will be sent home to students and their parents before they return to school next week, Vitti said. The robo-call system will also be used to inform parents of the changes.

In response to the decision to cut drinking water supplies to Detroit schools, the city’s water department and regional water board issued a statement to reassure residents of the quality of their drinking water.

“The Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) want to assure Detroit residents and customers of GLWA’s regional system that they are not affected by the lead and copper issues that the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) is experiencing,” they said in a statement. “Aging school infrastructure (i.e. plumbing) is the reason for the precautionary measure of providing bottled water. The treated drinking water provided by GLWA and distributed by DWSD not only meets, but surpasses all federal and state Safe Drinking Water Act regulations for quality and safety. The water at GLWA’s treatment plants is tested hourly and DWSD has no lead service lines connected to any DPSCD building.”

As a result of the earlier testing, some pipes were coated with a silicate to prevent the leaching of metal and bacteria into drinking supplies, according to Chalkbeat Detroit.

The full results of the water testing are expected to be posted on the school district website as well as the city’s website.

Vitti listed the following schools involved in the testing that had elevated levels of lead and/or copper.

  • Academy of the Americas Elementary-Middle School
  • Adult Education-East
  • Bates Academy
  • Bennett Elementary-Middle School
  • Cass Technical High School
  • Roberto Clemente Elementary
  • Clippert Elementary Middle School
  • Coleman Young Elementary School
  • Davis Aerospace @ Golightly
  • Dixon Academy
  • Foreign Language Immersion
  • Hutchinson @ Howe
  • Keidan
  • Noble Elementary-Middle School
  • Marcus Garvey
  • Renaissance High School