Detroit Public Schools Shut Off Drinking Water Due to Elevated Lead

Aug. 30, 2018

While not all test results are complete, all Detroit public schools will shut off drinking water by the start of the school year due to lead contamination

On Aug. 29, the Detroit Public Schools Community District announced drinking water at all of its schools will be shut off, following test results that showed elevated levels of lead or copper in 16 of 24 schools recently tested. The district set out to test all 106 school buildings this spring and previously had shut off drinking water in 18 schools due to high levels of heavy metals, as reported by USA Today.

While not all the schools have completed testing yet, nearly a third of the city’s school buildings have tested positive for excessive lead and copper levels. As a results, all water fountains and drinking water sources at all Detroit public schools will be shut off before the school year begins and students will be provided bottled water. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said that the decision to shut off drinking water sources at all schools was made out of caution.

“Although we have no evidence that there are elevated levels of copper or lead in our other schools 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.

While the decision to shut off drinking water sources and provide bottled water while the district waits for the arrival of water coolers will be costly, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has been supportive of the decision. Duggan announced his intent to reach out to charter school operators to conduct similar water quality testing.

“Aging school infrastructure (plumbing) is the reason for the precautionary measure of providing bottled water. The treated drinking water provided by GLWA (Great Lakes Water Authority) and distributed by DWSD (Detroit Water and Sewerage Department) not only meets, but surpasses all federal and state Safe Drinking Water Act regulations,” GLWA and DWSD responded in a joint-statement.