Help Me Hank investigates if water at homes near Detroit public schools is safe

Elevated copper, lead levels detected at many DPSCD schools

DETROIT – Elevated levels of lead and copper have been found in the water at Detroit public schools, and many residents around the city are wondering if the water at their homes is safe.

Since the test results were revealed by the Detroit Public Schools Community District, many residents living nearby have worried that the problem could be citywide.

Local 4's Hank Winchester and a team of experts tested the water around five schools in Detroit: Academy of Americas, Marcus Garvey, Coleman Young, Bates Academy and Cass Tech High School.

DPSCD Superintendent Nikolai Vitti was concerned about the test results and didn't take any chances. He turned off all water fountains and switched to bottled water until a solution is found.

Many schools in Detroit have high lead and copper levels, and they aren't just schools in old buildings. The newer Cass Tech High School reported lead issues, which had many people wondering if the problem is more widespread.

Gary Brown, of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, firmly believes the water flowing in Detroit is safe.

Working with water testing experts at Brighton Analytical, Help Me Hank went from door to door in neighborhoods near schools that had elevated lead levels, asking for samples of the water and sending the samples to labs for testing.

The testing was focused on the five Detroit schools with the most elevated levels of copper and lead. Four homes near each of the schools were tested -- one each to the north, south, east and west of the school building.

The Harris family, near Coleman Young Elementary School, was worried because its grandchildren are DPSCD students and the water across the street is an apparent danger.

Local 4 collected 20 samples altogether, and testing took nearly two weeks to complete.

In all, only two of the 20 homes tested at 5 parts per billion. The Environmental Protection Agency ceiling for lead in drinking water is 15 ppb, but even 5 ppb could be a concern.

The other 18 homes Local 4 tested had no detectable lead or the levels were extremely low. Copper levels across the board were well below federal guidelines.

For the two homes that were on the borderline at 5 ppb, Local 4 shared the results with the families and recommended a filter.

It's helpful for all residents to flush the tap every morning by running cold water for one minute before use. This clears out water that has been sitting in the pipes overnight.

Buying a filter can also be helpful. Most filters cost about $30 and need to be replaced about every three months.

The effects of lead poisoning, especially on children, can be devastating.

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