Detroit's $2M school water 'solution' looks like this


  • Courtesy Detroit Public Schools Community District
Following reports of elevated levels of copper and lead in Detroit's public school drinking water, district superintendent Nikolai Vitti is now proposing a $2 million water filtration system to be installed in all schools — similar to systems used in Flint, Royal Oak, and Birmingham.

Vitti made the announcement at a board meeting on Tuesday. According to Vitti's proposal, the system would filter contaminants, including copper and lead. Additionally, the district would commit to regular testing and flushing of the system.

The flushing is important because one of the theories is that the elevated levels are due to copper and lead build-up in the pipes. The build-up is suspected to come from lower water usage, which is in turn due to the district's declining student enrollment as the city has lost population.

However, as The Detroit News reports, the cause of the elevated levels in unknown. The district's crumbling infrastructure is an issue; in June, a district report said it would cost $500 million to repair its buildings, and at least $29.86 million to repair or replace plumbing.

"The reality is our schools are vastly different: some are new, some are old," Vitti said. "Some have outdated systems, some have outdated sinks and plumbing."

Vitti ordered drinking water turned off inside all of Detroit Public Schools Community District's 106 school buildings shortly before the start of the new school year. The district is currently spending $200,000 on bottled water and water coolers for the near future; the water filtration system wouldn't be able to be installed until next year, Vitti said.

Vitti said he has been working with players involved in mitigating the Flint water crisis for advice, including the governor's office, the department's of environmental health, and whistleblower Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha.

"They have provided lessons on Flint," Vitti said. "They gave the recommendation for me to think about piping in general and a long-term solution."

Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.