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Detroit schools, grappling with lead in water, get help from donors

Philanthropic donors have pitched in $2.4 million for hydration stations

Cass Tech was one of many Detroit schools that tested positive for elevated levels of lead in the water.
Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

After finding elevated levels of lead in the water in many Detroit schools right before the beginning of the school year, the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) announced yesterday that corporate and philanthropic donors are coming together to provide hydration systems to Detroit schools.

The installation of these systems should be complete by summer 2019.

DPSCD has received $2.4 million in support for the initiative, and the Financial Review Commission will meet later this week to review and approve the additional costs the district will incur for the total $3 million installation.

Many schools are currently using water coolers and will continue to do so until installation is complete.

The United Way for Southeastern Michigan has given a lead gift of $500,000, and created a site to raise more funds for the effort. Additional donors include Quicken Loans with $500,000, the Delta Dental Foundation with $300,000, DTE Energy Foundation at $300,000, General Motors with $200,000, Ford Motor Company Fund with $200,000, FCA Foundation with $100,000, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan/Blue Care Network with $100,000.

“We worked expeditiously to identify a long-term drinking water solution that ensures all students and staff have access to safe and clean drinking water,” said Nikolai P. Vitti, Superintendent, DPSCD, in a statement. “This is the solution to turning drinking water back on in our schools. We are extremely grateful to our donors who continue to step up and assist us with maintaining a safe learning environment.”

The Detroit News recently reported on elevated levels of lead and drinking water in 57 different Detroit schools. The News found lead levels at 54 times allowed under federal law at Mason Elementary-Middle School, and a drinking fountain at Mark Twain School for Scholars with 53 times the amount. Copper levels were nearly 30 times the amount allowed at a drinking fountain at Bethune Elementary-Middle School.

In addition to the drinking water situation, Detroit schools have faced growing concerns over infrastructure. Earlier this summer, it was reported that it would cost $500 million to fix Detroit school buildings, with 30 percent of buildings currently in unsatisfactory condition. Earlier this year, Detroit listed 24 of its vacant school buildings for sale.