Detroit public school students will be returning to school next week with no water coming from the school fountains after the most recent water quality tests conducted this year showed elevated levels of copper, lead, or both across some schools.
According to the New York Times, the district has recorded higher levels of lead or copper in several schools since 2016, though it still remains unclear how many of the 106 schools are affected. Still, Superintendent Nikolai P. Vitti is taking no chances, deciding to turn off the water in all the schools.
The most recent round of testing conducted this year tested 24 schools. Some 16 schools came back with elevated levels of lead, copper, or both in at least one water source. Adding in the results from 2016, that brings the total number of schools with known water issues up to 35. It could take up to another month for all the schools’ results to come back, but Vitti is not waiting.
“Now that we’re seeing these higher levels of lead and copper, there’s no need to roll the dice,” he said.
According to Vitti, there is nothing to indicate that students have suffered health problems because of the water. Students will still be able to wash their hands and flush the toilets, but drinking water will be provided through water bottles or coolers, rather than through fountains or sinks.
It is not clear how long the drinking water across the schools will be turned off.
The rest of city residents are apparently not affected by the school’s water issues, according to a joint statement by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, claiming the issues were due to an “aging school infrastructure,” like old plumbing, which the school district has reportedly struggled with for years.
Meanwhile, Vitti is working with the governor’s office and the mayor’s office to formulate a task force to uncover exactly what is the cause for the water issues in schools.