Drinking water shut off at Detroit schools for elevated lead, copper levels

Officials with the Detroit Public Schools Community District have shut of the drinking water at all schools, according to a statement, after testing showed elevated lead and copper levels at some of the schools.

Dr. Nikolai Vitti, DPSCD Superintendent, said in a statement he initiated water testing at all of the schools and initial results found high lead and copper levels at 16 schools of the 24 whose results were given.

The statement didn't specify which schools, but Dr. Vitti said drinking water is being turned off at all schools "out of an abundance of caution" while they wait for the remaining test results and work out a solution. 

"Although we have no evidence that there are elevated levels of copper or lead in our other schools (over 50) 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," his statement said. 

He added that bottled water and water coolers have been provided. 

Dr. Vitti said that when he assumed the office of superintendent in 2017, 10 schools were using a filtration system. He said at that point he decided to shut off all drinking fountains and provide bottled water and coolers at those 10 schools. 

The latest results from the 16 schools -- plus the 10 he learned about in 2017, plus another 8 schools that had concerns about water this past spring -- brings the total schools with concerns about water to 34 schools. More than 50 schools in the district are still awaiting results. 

Detroit Public Schools Community District has more than 100 buildings and serves more than 40,000 students. The new school year starts next week.

The district operates independently from City Hall, but Vitti says he's working with Mayor Mike Duggan on water quality issues.