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Detroit Schools Turn Off Drinking Fountains over Fears of Lead, Copper Levels

State should collect more data on lead testing of schools' drinking water, group says
AP Photo/John Locher

The Detroit Public School system has turned off hallway drinking fountains over fears of contaminants such as lead and copper in the water.

District officials say recent testing found elevated levels of lead and copper in 16 of 24 school drinking fountain systems, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“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,” said Detroit schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti in a Wednesday statement.

Vitti hastened to add that the testing was initiated by school officials and was not required by federal or state laws. “This testing, unlike previous testing, evaluated all water sources from sinks to drinking fountains,” he said.

“I’m not playing around with this. … it’s a safety issue,” Vitti added.

The latest round of testing is in addition to a 2016 campaign that found 19 Detroit schools with elevated levels of contaminants in the water. To date, 34 Detroit schools have had drinking water shut off.

Vitti also said that the city plans to step in and work with the school district to find a solution to the problem.

“The mayor’s office plans to partner with us to determine challenges with water quality in our schools and solutions to them,” Vitti said.

Mayor Duggan’s office backed up Vitti’s statements and said they are supportive of the effort to fix the drinking water not only in the city’s public school system but also in its charter school buildings.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.

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