Schools are about to resume session but around 47,000 students in Detroit schools will have to bring their own water bottles from home.
The public school district announced last week it would be turning off water fountains over concerns of elevated level of lead and copper in drinking water.
Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti ordered the shut down in 106 schools after 16 out of 24 tests of school water showed high levels of contamination.
Since 2016, water testing in the district has found a high concentration of the dangerous elements in dozens of school. Although it is not clear how many out of the 106 schools have water quality issues, Vitti said the water will be turned off in all of them, just to be on the safe side, while tests are done on the remaining schools.
The most recent water tests were conducted this year and out of the 24 schools tested, 16 had at least one water source with dangerously high levels of lead, or copper or both. That, in addition to the testing results from 2016, brought the total number of schools with water issues to 34.
“Although we have no evidence that there are elevated levels of copper or lead in our other schools where we are awaiting test results,” Vitti said in a statement. “[O]ut 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 students will be able to flush toilets and wash their hands but drinking water will come from water bottles and water coolers.
The school district had to turn off running water at six schools earlier this summer after dangerous level of contamination as found in the water fountains. The alarming finding prompted the district-wide water testing. Experts are putting the blame on the school’s old infrastructure, according to The Washington Post.
The Detroit school system’s water is supplied by the Great Lakes Water Authority, which stated the problem is not the water or the delivery system but the archaic plumbing in the city’s school buildings. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department said its drinking water “not only meets, but surpasses all federal and state Safe Drinking Water Act regulations for quality and safety,” in its statement.
Water with high concentrations of lead is highly toxic and can cause death or permanent damage to the central nervous system, kidneys and brain. The damage results in: learning problems, behavior issues, memory problems, hearing issues, headaches, stunted growth, reproductive problems and high blood pressure.
Water with high level of copper can cause diarrhea, vomiting, stomach disturbance and headaches.
The issue of lead in drinking water is hardly new and was brought to the forefront by the horrific water crisis in Flint. Millions of students risk lead exposure from school water, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office. Federal laws do not require schools to test it water system; however states handle the responsibility at an individual level
A review of Detroit public schools found it would take about $500 million to update the antiquated water facilities, as per the Michigan Public Radio — and if the solution is delayed further, the cost can run into billions of dollars.
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