Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Detroit Public Schools: Don't Drink The Water!!!

If you think that certain people are by nature inferior then stories like this won't bother you all that much. But for the rest of us the truth is that no one in the United States should be exposed to contaminated water. Not only does unsafe water impact your health and life but it will also affect your future educational potential. Depending on how far back this problem has been occurring there could be multiple cohorts of Detroit public school students, mostly but not exclusively Black, who may have been impacted.

Functionally, American inner cities serve the same purpose as Native American reservations or the Gaza Strip. They are places where infrastructure and law are allowed to crumble to the detriment of the people living there. You don't have to engage in conspiracy theories. All you have to do is open your eyes and ask questions as to why these schools were allowed to reach these conditions. And why do we keep reading about these sorts of problems in certain communities. All else equal, which it certainly isn't, but were it so, children who consume or are exposed to heavy metals will on average be less able to perform cognitively in later years. They will have poorer grades and test scores. And they won't be as likely to get into college, which is often a prerequisite for any chance at a middle class lifestyle. Fixing these problems may not be as exciting as other hot button cultural or social battles. But I think they're more important.

Drinking water will be turned off in all schools at Detroit Public Schools Community District after initial results for 16 schools showed higher than acceptable levels for copper and/or lead at one or more water sources. "I immediately turned off the drinking water at those schools and provided water bottles until water coolers arrive," DPSCD superintendent Nikolai Vitti said in a statement. Water at the 16 affected schools was shut off Tuesday. Shutoffs at the remaining schools will occur this week, Vitti said. 


Staff and families were informed of the decision on Tuesday via robo calls. Vitti said he had initiated water testing of all 106 school buildings during the spring to ensure the safety of students and employees. The testing evaluated all water sources from sinks to drinking fountains, he said. "This past week initial results were returned for 24 schools and higher than acceptable levels were identified for copper and/or lead in 16 schools at one or more water sources," he said.

Although there is no evidence that there are elevated levels of copper or lead in other schools where the district is are awaiting test results, Vitti said "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."

Vitti said he has informed the mayor's office and Mayor Mike Duggan supports the decision. "The Mayor’s Office plans to partner with us to determine challenges with water quality in our schools and solutions to them," Vitti said. 

In 2016, King High School was among 15 district school buildings that tested positive for high lead levels. In one building, a drinking fountain recorded 100 times the allowable limit. The district collected its own samples, and the results were reviewed by the Detroit Health Department.
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