The Detroit Public Schools announced they’re shutting off drinking water in all schools in response to recent testing showing elevated levels of lead or copper in 16 out of 24 tested schools. This was unquestionably the right thing to do. They didn’t wait for the ongoing testing to confirm lead everywhere, and instead acted to protect Detroit children in all their schools.

This powerful leadership to protect our kids from the damage lead can do to their sensitive, developing brains and bodies underscores the seriousness that Detroit Public Schools takes with this risk. They also put testing results online so families will know about the testing in each school down to which taps and fountains were tested.

Now Detroit schools need to finish testing and follow through with remediation. Certified filters are an immediate, low-cost step proven to remove lead in water. Long term, we know we need to replace the sources of lead and copper in the plumbing and fixtures in our schools, and this testing provides the start of a game plan to get this done.

A number of schools simply sent out a press release saying they were below the federal action standards of 15 ppb, and considered the case closed. The EPA has said the goal for lead levels in drinking water is zero because of the harmful effects of lead.

We know that many schools still use plumbing and fixtures that put kids at risk. We know that lead exposure can cause serious long term effects on children. It’s long past time for schools to get serious about water testing, make the details of those results public, and get to work on remediation.

Nathan Murphy is state director of Environment Michigan.

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