Detroit Public Schools has begun screening school building drinking water for lead and copper, officials said Tuesday with results for at least one school showing elevated lead levels and another with elevated copper levels.

So far, 60 elementary-middle schools have been tested. Of those schools, results were returned for nine schools. One of the schools, the 100-year-old former Beard Elementary, showed results of lead levels for one drinking fountain above Environmental Protection Agency requirements. The building has been leased to a private company for administrative space since 2014.

Results for a drinking fountain at Burton International Academy showed copper above the EPA suggested level of 1300 parts per billion, school officials said.

The district began testing March 28 during the district’s spring break, using the most recent measures from the Environmental Protection Agency, officials said.

“Like every school district, DPS makes the health and safety of its students and staff its first priority,” said DPS Emergency Manager Steven Rhodes in a statement Tuesday. “We are committed to ensuring that each of our schools provides an environment that is conducive to teaching and learning. The district has an obligation to ensure that our students and staff can focus all of their attention on what is most important — improved academic achievement. Proactively screening the water in our schools will help everyone stay focused on this goal.”

The district is conducting the screenings through a partnership with the city of Detroit and the Detroit Health Department. On Tuesday, the city urged all Detroit Public Schools, charter schools and early childhood facilities to test for lead in water.

“Though no classes are held inside Beard Elementary, there are two portable buildings on the school’s property that a Head Start provider uses as classrooms for two Pre-K classes,” city officials said Tuesday.

The water in the portable buildings is expected to be sampled Wednesday.

The screening comes as Flint seeks to replace the city’s lead pipes as it deals with lead contamination after the city switched its water source in 2014 from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s system to the Flint River.

The Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation donated $135,000 for the water testing at Detroit’s educational facilities, city officials said. The buildings pay a third party to collect water samples and the city will reimburse for the lab testing, up to $225 per building, officials said.

Schools and early childhood centers will be required to submit the samples to an EPA-certified lab. The Detroit Health Department must receive the results within 60 days of testing.

“There’s nothing more important than the health and safety of Detroit’s children,” said Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, director of the Detroit Health Department, in a release Tuesday. “Regularly screening drinking water in schools is a well-established best practice.”

Parents interested in having their children tested for elevated lead levels can contact their pediatrician, the Detroit Medical Center Department of Pediatrics or the Detroit Health Department’s clinics at Samaritan Center (313) 410-8142 or Family Place (313) 410-7803.


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