Back-to-School Surprise for Detroit: Dry Water Fountains

Lead, copper prompt 106 Detroit schools to shut off water; kids will drink from water coolers
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 3, 2018 12:00 PM CDT
Lead, Copper Prompt Detroit Schools to Shut Off Water
In this Friday photo, a sign is displayed at the Marcus Garvey Academy in Detroit. The school is among Detroit schools where elevated levels of lead or copper were detected in the most recent round of water testing.   (AP Photo/Roger Schneider)

Some 50,000 Detroit public school students will start the school year Tuesday by drinking water from coolers, not fountains, after the discovery of elevated levels of lead or copper in the supply—the latest setback in a state already dealing with the consequences of contaminated tap water in Flint and other communities. Detroit Public Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti expects the closure of water fountains and other drinking fixtures in all 106 schools to go smoothly because the district—Michigan's largest—had previously turned off the tap in 18 schools, the AP reports. The coolers and bottled water will cost $200,000 over two months, after which the district probably will seek bids for a longer-term contract, he said.

Kids at the schools that already had coolers drank more than they ever had from the fountains, according to their principals. "There has been an undertone of not trusting the water to begin with," Vitti told the AP in a phone interview Friday, days after announcing his decision. "With the water coming from the water coolers, they just trust it more and are drinking it more." Detroit is not the first major school district to switch to bottled water. The 49,000-student district in Portland, Ore., turned off its fixtures in 2016 after a scandal over high levels of lead in the water at almost every school — a problem that took two years to fix. Fountains at most schools in Baltimore have been shut off for more than a decade.

(Read more Detroit stories.)

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