In 2016, a testing of the water in Detroit schools showed elevated levels of lead and copper. This summer, a follow-up round of testing at 24 schools found critical levels of one, the other, or both in two out of three of those. Nikolai Vitti, the Superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District ordered all of the drinking water turned off at the failing 16 schools immediately, and in the rest of the 106 schools in the district before school began for the year.
“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,” said Vitti in an emailed statement to news sources on the morning of August 26.
Only two weeks later, the school district has announced a solution in the works. By the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, all of those 106 schools are intended to be fitted with filtered water hydration stations, that clean the toxic metals from the water at the user end. So far, 34 of the 106 schools have been found to have contaminated water.
Critics claim that the levels of toxic metals detected would not have raised eyebrows a decade ago, but doctors worldwide have increased their warnings about metal contaminants in water. Current standards allow no detectable levels of lead at all in drinking water, and many water systems fail that grade—by a lot.
“Day one starts tomorrow,” said community activist Helen Moore. “Somebody better do something about our schools and make sure our water is safe.”
The new stations, which will be allotted to schools at one per each 100 students, along with additional stations in gyms, kitchen, and faculty lounges, are estimated to cost approximately $2 million for the whole district.