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Detroit Superintendent Shuts Water Off After Unsafe Lead Levels Discovered

Updated: Jan 3, 2019


Being a superintendent carries a lot more responsibility that one might assume. From the management of multiple schools to the tough decisions that have to be made, they're in charge of keeping students safe and surrounded by knowledge. When it comes to Detroit superintendent Nikolai Vitti, he went above and beyond the call of duty.

There's Something In The Water

Despite the danger lead poses to the growth and development of children, water testing is not required by local, state, or federal governments. Nikolai Vitti took it upon himself to order universal water testing for Detroit's schools to be on the safe side and was shocked when a variety of locations -- old schools, newer schools, high schools, and elementary schools -- all proved susceptible to lead contamination. Initial tests revealed that two-thirds of schools showed alarming levels of lead in their drinking water.

After talking it over with his wife and contemplating his four school-age children, Vitti ordered the water to be shut off in every school and replaced with water cooler services before students returned.

"I consulted my conscience," Vitti recalled in an interview, adding he saw less-expensive half-measures as not defensible. "I don't think I could have looked in a child's face, or a parent's face, to say, 'I can assure you that your children will be safe in our school system.'"

The costly exchange added hundreds of thousands of dollars to the city's deficit: its 106 schools need an estimated $530 million to make capital improvements. Although it alarmed cash-strapped citizens, it has widely been regarded as the right move.

Around one in every eight people worldwide don't have access to clean water. While America is largely exempt from such a statistic, we're clearly still facing our own problems; until the governments start demanding quality tests in schools, many cities will have to either pay exorbitant costs for water filtration and water sterilization services (such as the implementation of commercial water dispensers) or allow their children to consume unsafe water. Parents are then forced to decide whether to install residential water cooler services in their own homes. Though residential water cooler services can improve quality of life, they shouldn't be a solution to the presence of lead.

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