Detroit Public Schools Shut Off Their Drinking Fountains Because Of Contamination

All kinds of studies have been published about how much water the average human needs to consume each day. Stats vary, but students in Detroit Public schools won't be meeting any kind of water threshold by drinking from school water fountains. They will have to rely on water bottles when they go back to school next week. Detroit Public Schools Community District officials said that they’re ordering drinking fountains be turned off in all 106 Detroit district campuses because of concerns about contamination, NBC News reported.

Superintendent Nikolai P. Vitti said in a letter to staff that test found 16 schools had levels of cooper or lead in the tap water that were “higher than acceptable.” NBC News says Vitti said in a statement that a total of 34 campuses in total have water quality problems when you consider the fact that 10 schools already had filtration systems in place and eight more campuses have had issues since 2016. The testing was initially done in 24 schools, NRP reported. Vitti gave a statement to The Detroit Free Press Wednesday that stated:

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 says he’s creating a task force with officials to find out the cause of and solution to the levels of contamination shown by the water testing, The Detroit Free Press reported. He said this most recent testing procedure was more thorough than other had been because it looked at water levels in drinking fountains as well as sinks, an NPR report states.

NPR reports that the school system’s water comes to them by way of the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA). Officials there say the problem isn’t the water or the way it’s being delivered to the student’s and their fountains — instead, they said in a statement that the problem is plumbing and infrastructure within the public school systems.

Aging school infrastructure (i.e. plumbing) is the reason for the precautionary measure of providing bottled water,” the statement reads. “The treated drinking water provided by GLWA and distributed by (Detroit Water and Sewage Department) DWSD not only meets, but surpasses all federal and state Safe Drinking Water Act regulations for quality and safety.

Water problems are a familiar beast in Michigan. Back in 2016, higher-than-usual lead and copper levels in water tainted 19 of Detroit’s public schools, according to The Associated Press. Crain’s Detroit Business reported that the testing came as a response to the Flint, Michigan, water crisis. The Detroit Metro Times reported that a 2016 report showed one drinking fountain had 100 times more lead than the allowable lead limit.

All of this news comes as a debate over school choice wages. Proponents of what's been branded as "school choice" say it will increase a parent’s ability to decide what kind of school is right for their child, while opponents say it siphons too much money out of public schools. Vice News reported that the school choice debate left Detroit schools with “slipping enrollment levels and less money to serve the remaining students.”

As the Detroit schools start classes for the new year next week, the world will be watch and waiting for more water-related news.