High lead levels worry parents at DPS’ Brown Academy
Detroit — Angel Huff-Dixon, a fourth-grader at Ronald Brown Academy in Detroit, said it wasn’t long ago when her classmates were collecting bottled water for children in Flint.
This week, Angel, her classmates and their parents learned that high lead or copper levels have been reported in the water at 19 Detroit Public Schools, including Brown Academy.
“We we’re trying to help Flint get the water with lead in their pipes and now it’s come to our pipes,” Angel, 9, said on Saturday while visiting the school with her mother and sister.
Sabrina Dixon and her daughters — Angel and Sabria Huff-Dixon, 12, a sixth-grader at the school — were at the school for the district’s “Open Doors Day,” an event where DPS asked parents to enroll students, take tours of its schools and meet principals, teachers and staff.
On Wednesday, Detroit Public Schools officials released the results of water tests at some of its facilities. The results showed 15 of the district’s buildings have high lead levels. DPS has 97 schools in its system, housed in 93 buildings.
The highest number recorded in the water tests came from a drinking fountain at the Ronald Brown Academy, where a sample produced 100 times the allowable limit. Officials said the district is testing the water in its schools as a precautionary measure.
“As a mother, I was concerned,” Dixon said outside the academy on Outer Drive on the city’s east side. “And when I found out there was lead in the water, I immediately told my daughters to not drink from the fountains.”
“Hopefully, the situation gets fixed,” said Dixon, 36, of Detroit. “It’s unsafe for kids to have lead in the water.” Dixon said she was at the school, which provides Pre-K through six grade classes, to enroll her daughters in after-school programs.
The DPS water testing comes in the wake of lead contamination in Flint’s tap water after that city switched its supply to the Flint River in April 2014.
Elevated lead or copper levels were also found at DPS’ Moses Field School, Carver Academy, Priest Elementary-Middle School and Burton International Academy.
Lead and copper exposure can lead to health problems ranging from stomach pain to brain damage, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The water that was tested is considered safe for hand-washing; the EPA says harm from lead relates to ingestion over a long period, according to the district.
Officials said the probability a child was exposed to serious amounts of lead at school is low because DPS has been providing bottled water for students well in advance of the tests. DPS said bottled water has been provided three times a day along with three meals since 2012.
Parent Leslie Reeves, 32, also of Detroit, said she heard about lead in water at DPS schools, but didn’t know Brown Academy — where her 7-year-old goes and her 4-year-old will go next fall — had tested the highest.
However, she said she wasn’t too worried because she’s always taught her children to stay away from drinking fountains.
“I never let them drink from them because there are way too may germs they can carry,” she said. “I’ll talk to them and let them know it’s even more important to not use them at school now.”
Dixon said she’s glad the school has been giving her daughters and their classmates bottled water to drink.
Still, the city’s health department director said Thursday all DPS students under the age of 6 should have a lead screening, regardless of whether they attend one of the schools with elevated lead or copper.
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, executive director of the Detroit Department of Health & Wellness Promotion, also said the likelihood a child was exposed to serious amounts of lead at school is low because DPS has provided bottled water for students well in advance of the tests. DPS said bottled water has been provided three times a day along with three meals since 2012.
City health officials also have told DPS they want a full mitigation plan in 15 days for water and cleanliness at the district, including a 90-day action plan going forward.
Parent Shaneil Lewis, 37 of Detroit, was also surprised to hear about the high lead-levels found in the water at Brown Academy.
“Obviously, it concerns me,” he said Saturday, before going in to the school to enroll his 3-year-old son, Josiah, in next year’s Pre-K class. “We don’t’ drink tap water at home and I’ve got water filters throughout my house. It makes me feel better to know they give children here bottled water.”
Jennifer Chambers and Jim Lynch contributed.