In Detroit, MI, students were welcomed back to school but they were unable to drink from the water fountains!
Detroit Public Schools Community District shut off drinking water at all of the schools after testing revealed that 16 schools had elevated levels of lead and/or copper. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti ordered testing of all schools this spring, after tests in 2016 found elevated levels of the metals. Initial results for 24 schools returned last week found 16 had levels higher than acceptable, he said in the emailed letter. All water sources, including drinking fountains and sinks, were tested. Water is still available for hand washing and toilet flushing. I guess it’s a good idea to wash your hands in “lead and/or copper.”
Before we delve into Detroit, we wanted to take a look at the history of the drinking fountain. Here is an article from the Washington Post (July 2015):
The modern era’s first free public water fountain was unveiled in London in 1859. Thousands gathered to watch officials turn on the tap. At its peak, about 7,000 people used the fountain each day. At that time, the rich were buying water brought in from the country. The poor were drinking water bottled from the sewage-infested Thames. Water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid were rampant.
One’s wealth or status should have nothing to do with their availability to safe drinking water. This is particularly true when we talk about those who are most vulnerable, our young children, who drink out of trust.
Those of us who went to school in the 1960s and 1970s, remember drinking from a fountain without a thought that what we might be drinking was harmful. Today, we cannot give those same assurances to students. In Boston, there was a scandal related to high levels of lead and copper found in public drinking water supplies. Now Detroit … this is truly unacceptable. Water, clean water, is a required staple for a good education and our public water systems have failed us in this area.
Let us celebrate the return of kids to school by sending them off with safe water that nourishes both their mind and body. We should not assume that the bubblers in the school halls are sufficient when we have data that says that it may not even be safe in our own homes.