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Detroit Public Schools shut off drinking water after high levels of lead, copper found

The city of Detroit has shut off the drinking water supply to all public schools after high levels of lead or copper were found. (Photo Illustration by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The Detroit school district has shut off the drinking water supply to all public schools after high levels of lead or copper were found in samples from 16 out of 24 schools tested, according to published reports.

The move is being called a precautionary measure as the school district prepares for the start of classes next week.

Old fixtures and an aging infrastructure are being blamed for the problem, not the water source.

Eighteen other schools are already using bottled water due to quality issues, Fox News reported.

“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 Wednesday.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high levels of lead in tap water can lead to adverse health effects.

Even small levels of lead can affect a child’s IQ, ability to pay attention and academic achievement, the report notes. In some cases it can impact physical development or be fatal.

Adverse health effects from copper can include vomiting and stomach cramps.

Vitti told the media that although the district operates separately from the city, he is working with Mayor Mike Duggan to address the issues. Vitti made the decision to test the water and then have it shut off district-wide, according to reports.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Vitti is creating a task force to pinpoint the cause and find a solution. Plans call for the water to remain off until a solution is found, reports state.

The Great Lakes Water authority supplies the water to the schools. In the interim, the agency is providing providing bottled water to the district. In a statement, it assured the public that home drinking water is still safe.

Detroit’s school district has more than 100 schools and serves more than 45,000 students.

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