While the superintendent said the move was “out of an abundance of caution” before school starts next week, officials believe old fixtures and aging infrastructure, not the water source, is to blame. Eighteen other schools had already been using bottled water due to quality issues.
“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,” Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District, said in a statement on Wednesday.
High levels of lead in tap water can cause adverse health effects if it enters the blood stream. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children and pregnant women are the most vulnerable to the effects of lead exposure.
The district has more than 100 buildings and serves more than 40,000 students. It operates separately from City Hall, but Vitti said that he’s working with Mayor Mike Duggan to address the issues. It was Vitti’s decision, not a federal or state mandate, to test the water, and then shut it off districtwide.
Concerned parents told the news outlet that more should have been done in the past to prevent the situation from escalating, which Vitti agreed with.