Detroit Schools Shutting Off Drinking Water


The Detroit school district is shutting off drinking water to all of its schools, after test results found elevated levels of lead or copper in 16 out of 24 schools that were recently tested.

“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 the Detroit Public Schools Community District, said in a statement Wednesday morning.

Vitti had initiated water testing of all 106 school buildings in the spring to ensure the safety of students and employees, he said.

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“This was not required by federal, state or city law or mandate,” Vitti said. “This testing, unlike previous testing, evaluated all water sources from sinks to drinking fountains.”

The Free Press was shadowing Vitti on a day in May when the issue of water quality in the schools came up during a cabinet meeting. Earlier that day, Vitti had learned that test results at several schools had come back showing elevated lead levels.

“I’m not playing around with this. … it’s a safety issue,” Vitti said during that meeting. The testing he ordered in the spring evaluated all water sources, from sinks to drinking fountains. At the 16 schools that had elevated copper and/or lead levels, the district took immediate action. “I immediately turned off the drinking water at those schools and provided water bottles until water coolers arrive,” Vitti said.

The 16 schools bring to 34 the number of schools where the district has already shut off drinking water. Eighteen had previously been identified through testing. Chrystal Wilson, spokeswoman for the district, said the districtwide drinking water shutoffs will likely happen this week, and certainly before the beginning of the school year Tuesday.

Vitti said he had notified Mayor Mike Duggan of his decision to shut off the drinking water. “The mayor’s office plans to partner with us to determine challenges with water quality in our schools and solutions to them. “These are the 34 schools where drinking water has been shut off because of elevated lead and/or copper levels (with the most recent 16 in bold):

  • Ben Carson
  • Breithaupt
  • Bunche
  • Detroit Collegiate Preparatory
  • Edison Elementary School
  • John R. King Academy
  • Moses Field
  • Thirkell Elementary School
  • Thurgood Marshall
  • Wayne Elementary School
  • Burton International
  • Bow Elementary-Middle School
  • Carstens Elementary-Middle School
  • Carver STEM
  • Clark Elementary-Middle School
  • Detroit Lions Academy
  • Sampson-Webber Academy
  • Spain Elementary-Middle School
  • Academy of the Americas Elementary-Middle School 
  • Adult Education- East 
  • Bates Academy 
  • Bennett Elementary-Middle School 
  • Cass Technical High School 
  • Roberto Clemente Elementary
  • Clippert Elementary Middle School 
  • Coleman Young Elementary School 
  • Davis Aerospace @ Golightly 
  • Dixon Academy 
  • Foreign Language Immersion 
  • Hutchinson @ Howe 
  • Keidan 
  • Noble Elementary-Middle School 
  • Marcus Garvey 
  • Renaissance High School [subscribe2]


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