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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, September 01, 2018 1:00 am

Detroit schools deal with lead scare

Washington Post

Less than a week before classes are scheduled to resume, Detroit's city school district announced that drinking water will be shut off for all its schools because of concerns over above-normal levels of lead and copper.

The decision comes after tests of various water sources at 16 out of 24 schools showed elevated amounts of the potentially toxic heavy metals, according to a statement from Detroit Public Schools Community District superintendent Nikolai Vitti.

“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,” Vitti said in the statement.

Mia Jones, whose child attends Cass Technical High School, one of the schools, told WJBK that the situation should have been handled before it got this bad.

“These are high-achieving students, and not just because this is Cass, all Detroit public schools,” Jones said. “They deserve to be able to drink the water.”

Water quality has been an ongoing challenge for cities in Michigan, becoming the focus of national attention in 2014 with the Flint water crisis. In Flint, thousands were exposed to water that had high levels of lead and other pollutants.

Drinking water with high levels of copper can also have adverse health consequences, including vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps and nausea. Copper toxicity has been associated with liver and kidney failure.

“I haven't made this decision based on the Flint situation,” Vitti told WJBK. “I'm making this decision because I feel like it's the best decision for children.”

Until it is determined that the water is safe for drinking, schools will be provided with bottled water from the Great Lakes Water Authority, Detroit News reported. The school district serves more than 47,000 students, according to its website.