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School just started in Detroit and students don't have safe drinking water

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti shut down drinking water for all 106 public schools in Detroit.

by Roberto Daza
Sep 6 2018, 7:42pm

DETROIT — It's the first week of school for public school students in Detroit, but these schools are in the midst of a water crisis.

Detroit Public Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti decided to shut down drinking fountains at every one of its 106 schools after initial tests of Detroit's drinking water showed high concentrations of copper and lead.

“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,” said Vitti in a statement to school Detroit Public Schools Community District staff last week.

The decision affects close to 50,000 students across Michigan's largest school district, who started the school year Tuesday drinking from water bottles and coolers, not fountains. DPS will spend about $200,000 in the next few months providing bottled water at its schools while district officials work toward a long-term solution.

"It’s not just school, its’ everybody in the city being affected," said Dana Dacres, PTA president at Burton International Academy in Detroit.

One walk through the halls and it's easy to spot the black and white signs that read "CAUTION: DO NOT DRINK THE WATER" taped above every fountain.

“It’s now ingrained in our culture,” added Dacres, who’s five children all attend Burton, pointing to a letter thousands of other parents received from DPS informing them about the crisis. “This is not the first time Burton has been without water.”

This is actually the third time that the water has been shut down at her children's school. The first time, a burst water main caused a months-long shutdown. The second time, testing by the school district revealed elevated levels of copper.

DPS has initiated further testing at every one of its schools.

“We can’t see any more of those letters explaining yet again the faucets will be turned off,” Dacres said. “We know this, thank you, now let's get into business of fixing it permanently.”

This segment originally aired September 5, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.