The first day of school for students in the Detroit Public School Community District (DPSCD) is Tuesday, September 4, and students districtwide (106 schools) will not have drinking water. Wednesday morning, DPSCD Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti announced the shutoff after the most recent round of testing discovered 16 out of 24 schools had elevated levels of lead and/or copper.
Vitti said he immediately turned the water off at the effected schools and provided water bottles to those schools until water coolers arrived.
Lead is a neurotoxin that can damage child brain development, cause behavioral problems and sicken adults. Copper can cause gastrointestinal distress and long-term exposure can damage the liver or kidneys.
“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 in a statement. “These latest water results, coupled with those from 2016 and follow up results in the spring of 2018 for schools identified with concerns in 2016, have increased the number of schools in the district where we have turned off drinking water to 34 schools.”
Elevated levels of lead and copper were found in 19 DPSCD schools in 2016. The 2016 testing came as a response to the Flint water crisis, in which more than 100,000 residents were exposed to lead-tainted water.
The city of Detroit is also requiring city charter schools to participate in the same level of water testing as the DPSCD, after Vitti notified Mayor Mike Duggan of his decision.
“The mayor’s office plans to partner with us to determine challenges with water quality in our schools and solutions to them,” said Vitti. “His team is supportive of the decision.”
Vitti said his team will post all test results on the district’s website. In addition, they will send letters home to all students regarding the decision when the school year begins and utilize an automated call system to inform parents now. The district will also conduct engagement sessions districtwide regarding the decision once school begins.
While DPSCD students make not be able to drink the water at school, they will be able to drink the water at home. The Great Lakes Water Authority and Detroit Water and Sewerage Department released a joint statement after news broke of the water shutoffs in the school system.
“The (GLWA) and the Detroit Water and (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. The drinking water is of unquestionable quality. GLWA and DWSD stand ready to provide any technical assistance to DPSCD.”
The 16 schools in which elevated levels of lead and/or copper were detected in the latest round of testing for 24 schools, according to Vitti’s letter:
- 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
- Noble Elementary-Middle School
- Marcus Garvey
- Renaissance High School
The eight schools in which no elevation levels were detected in the latest round of water testing:
- Academy of the Americas High School
- Adult Education- West
- Burns Elementary School
- Drew Transition Center
- Earhart Elementary-Middle School
- Harms Elementary School
- Neinas Elementary School
- Maybury Elementary School
Current Summary of DPCSD schools with water cooler/bottled water strategy:
|4||Detroit Collegiate Preparatory|
|5||Edison Elementary School|
|6||John R. King Academy|
|8||Thirkell Elementary School|
|10||Wayne Elementary School|
|12||Bow Elementary-Middle School|
|13||Carstens Elementary-Middle School|
|15||Clark Elementary-Middle School|
|16||Detroit Lions Academy|
|18||Spain Elementary-Middle School|
|19||Academy of the Americas Elementary-Middle School|
|20||Adult Education- East|
|22||Bennett Elementary-Middle School|
|23||Cass Technical High School|
|24||Roberto Clemente Elementary|
|25||Clippert Elementary Middle School|
|26||Coleman Young Elementary School|
|27||Davis Aerospace @ Golightly|
|29||Foreign Language Immersion|
|30||Hutchinson @ Howe|
|32||Noble Elementary-Middle School|
|34||Renaissance High School|