Skip to main content

Detroit Schools Shut Off Water Fountains After Tests Found Lead Contamination

On their first day, students at public schools in Detroit, Michigan, were told to drink from coolers and bottled water, instead of water fountains—many of which have been found to contain water with unsafe levels of lead and copper, the Associated Press reports.

Detroit public schools shut off the district-wide water supply last week after tests found elevated levels of lead or copper in 34 schools, according to the Detroit Free Press. "We took the initiative to do this, but it's unfathomable to think that federally, there is no national mandate to test water," Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told the Free Press. "And when I say water, I mean every water source."

As Vitti argues, more comprehensive testing may be needed. New state-wide tests have found high levels of dangerous chemicals, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (known as PFAS), in the water supply of several Michigan communities. As testing continues, experts expect to find more such contamination across the state.

Meanwhile, other districts remain at risk across the country: An estimated 13 million children in the United States went to schools where officials found elevated levels of lead in drinking fountains and kitchen taps last year, according to a 2018 government watchdog report.