At Least 57 Detroit Schools Test Positive For Copper And Lead
In Detroit, 57 out of 86 tested public schools have shown high levels of copper, lead, or both in drinking water. There is upwards of 100 public schools in the Detroit School District, and they are waiting for results from 17 more schools.
The school district started testing water last year to guarantee the safety of students and employees. The testing included evaluation of all water sources in public schools, from sinks to drinking fountains. After some schools showed high levels of copper, lead, or a combination of the two last month, the Detroit school district turned off drinking water in all school buildings in the district.
According to Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, the testing last month found levels of copper and/or lead that were higher than acceptable standards at 16 of 24 schools. These initial results created such a level of concern that Vitti turned off all drinking water in Detroit's public schools just days before the start of the school year on Sept. 4 while officials conducted a deeper and broader analysis.
Vitti has also confirmed that they have not been using water to cook food in their kitchens. Instead, the district has been delivering pre-cooked meals to students. They have plans to install filters for the kitchen sinks so that they can continue their regular cooking. Schools across the district have been using bottled water to clean food, contributing to the 10% yearly increase in global consumption of bottled water.
The Detroit school district is planning to spend approximately $200,000 on bottled water and water coolers for the next several months. Within the next school year, officials would like to install water hydration stations in every school building, similar to the systems used in Flint, Michigan. According to Vitti, this is the most practical, long-term, and safest solution for water problems inside of schools. The cost to implement these stations in every school is about $2 million.
The causes of the water contamination are still unclear. Vitti points to the ages of the school buildings and older plumbing systems. He also says that copper and lead have built up as smaller enrollment sizes lead to a lower usage of water. While the schools were built to be used by thousands, the district's ranks have since shrunk.
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