Joanna Underwood rallies up the crowd against long-term poisoning of Detroit’s children.
A coalition of organizations held an impassioned protest outside the headquarters of the Detroit Public Schools “Community District” Tues. Sept. 4, the first day of the school year. School officials had just announced that water would be shut off to all DPS schools due to high levels of lead and copper, although they knew of the contamination weeks before the schools opened.
Schoolchildren also sweltered during a heat wave that lasted into the next day, Sept. 5, experiencing temperatures that approached 100 degrees. Protesters wanted to know why the schools of Detroit are not air-conditioned like the offices of Mayor Mike Duggan, Dan Gilbert, and the corporatocracy that rules Detroit.
THEY CALLED FOR AN IMMEDIATE SHUTDOWN OF DPSCD SCHOOLS DUE TO A HEALTH EMERGENCY.
By Diane Bukowski
September 6, 2018
DETROIT — Furious Detroiters demonstrated outside the headquarters of the Detroit Public Schools “Community District” Sept. 4, the first day of the new school year, reacting to Superintendent Nikolai Vitti’s announcement that water to 106 schools and nearly 50,000 students left in the devastated district will be shut off indefinitely.
Results from initial tests in 34 schools showed elevated lead and copper levels, Vitti said. The tests were performed in the spring, but Vitti waited until Aug. 30 to make his announcement about shutting DPSCD water off. He claimed he wanted to err on the side of caution by shutting down water to all schools.
“Although we have no evidence that there are elevated levels of copper or lead in our other schools where we are awaiting test results, out of an abundance of caution and concern for the safety of our students and employees, I am turning off all drinking water in our schools until a deeper and broader analysis can be conducted to determine the long-term solutions for all schools,” Vitti said in a statement.
Vitti claimed The Environmental Protection Agency ceiling for lead in drinking water is 15 parts per billion, and for copper, 1.3 parts per million. He told reporters the district used those levels to identify problem spots.
However, the EPA’s list of National Primary Drinking Water Regulations indicates the acceptable level for lead is ZERO. (See http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/National-Primary-Drinking-Water-Regulations-Lead-0_complete_table.pdf .)
The EPA says the presence of lead comes from both household plumbing systems as well as “erosion of natural deposits” and from water lines coming into households and other buildings from the supplier.
In a combined statement, the Great Lakes Water Authority and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department denied any responsibility for the DPS crisis. They said they “want to assure Detroit residents and customers of GLWA’s regional system that they are not affected by the lead and copper issues that the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) is experiencing. Aging school infrastructure (i.e. plumbing) is the reason for the precautionary measure of providing bottled water. The treated drinking water provided by GLWA and distributed by DWSD not only meets, but surpasses all federal and state Safe Drinking Water Act regulations for quality and safety.”
However, the last Water Quality Report for DWSD, published in 2017, said “The sampling results show that all the homes tested had lead levels below the EPA action level, which is 15 parts per billion (ppb). The MDEQ certified that DWSD’s 90th percentile for lead was 4 ppb, well below the EPA action level.” (See http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/GreatLakesWater-2017WaterReport.pdf).
Former Wastewater Plant workers including Bill Davis, a supervisor, told VOD earlier that previous “boil water alerts” and flooding in the City of Detroit, along with increased contamination of Lake Erie and other bodies of water, was caused by continuing layoffs of qualified staff, and the release of toxic elements including sewage into lakes and homes in the six-county area governed by DWSD. More than 41 percent of DWSD workers were laid off before the creation of the Great Lakes Water Authority, and the management of the Wastewater Treatment Plant was turned over to a notorious privatizer, the EMA, which earlier caused record flooding in Toronto.
Most recently, VOD was informed by Dr. Saulius Simoliunas, a longtime senior chemist at DWSD, that he and other chemists who sat on the board of the Senior Chemists and Technicians Association (SCATA) were singled out for lay-offs in 2015, because of their militant demands that the department adhere to strict guidelines regarding wastewater discharge. SCATA filed a complaint with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, which was dismissed outright in 2017.
Dr. Simoliunas is well-known around the U.S., meeting with different associations charged with safeguarding the quality of water nationally.
In Simoliunas’ post-complaint brief, filed by Attorney Jack Schulz, the chemists contended, “Testimony established that SCATA contacted MIOSHA regarding untrained chemists pouring chlorine into the river. MIOSHA came in and met with Simoliunas and the waste treatment plant manager (Jurban). SCATA contacted MIOSHA regarding an explosion in the lab. Concurrently, SCATA submitted a request to Respondent seeking the removal of Kuriakose for his connection to the incident. Ultimately, MIOSHA fined DWSD as a result of the explosion partially because an employee was not properly trained.” (See http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/SCATA-Post-Hearing-Brief-9.29.17-C15K-1444925.pdf)
“They have operators doing our jobs, who they sent out to Pelican Laboratories for training,” Simolanius told VOD. “Pelican does not follow standard methods. Our water is so polluted. They are falsely claiming they are meeting all standards. They are not. This is a crisis. The water should be shut off. It’s dangerous for our children. It’s more effective and cheaper to use carbon filtration to clean the water, not chlorine. Nobody on either the GLWA or DWSD board is qualified to be on those boards. Freman Hendrix was appointed to the GLWs Board as the second , Detroit representative, and Gary Brown, a policeman, runs the DWSD. Detroit has serious environmental problems including the trash incinerator, a defunct Water Department, and no real Drain Commissioner to build ditches for rain to escape flooding.”
Freman Hendrix was the first chairman of the Detroit Board of Education after the state takeover in 1999, which began the long destruction of the original DPS. Gary Brown sat with convicted child molester Charles Pugh on the DWSD “Roots Cause Committee” which caused havoc with its recommendations for drastic staff cutbacks and other atrocities.
The lay-offs occurred during the turbulent period prior to the GLWA takeover of DWSD, when skilled classifications were being combined and often eliminated, then filled with unqualified workers. Although the Simoliunas complaint related to the Wastewater Treatment Plant, a boil water advisory was issued for a wide swath of Detroit’s east side after employees failed to identify a malfunction in the Water Treatment Plant on E. Jefferson and Cadillac, and numerous other occasions of putrid water and sewage released into homes have happened, as VOD outlined in its 2017 story, http://voiceofdetroit.net/2017/03/08/do-not-drink-the-water-no-qualified-testers-in-detroit-glwa-crises-cause-ongoing-contamination/.
Both the GLWA, the DWSD and the DPSCD have therefore been caught up in monstrous lies that endanger the health of Detroit’s children, similar to the lead contamination of the entire city of Flint.
There, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s Emergency Manager decided to separate Flint from the DWSD water system in anticipation of the construction of a duplicate pipeline (the Karegnondi Water Authority) which was way behind schedule. Meanwhile, Flint’s EM decided to use Flint River water instead of Great Lakes water (which had been used by the DWSD), but treat it with Flint’s temporary treatment plant, only to be used in emergencies for period of no more than two weeks.
As time dragged on, the entire city became contaminated, but the chief instigators, Snyder, the EM, and Jeff Wright of the Karegnondi Water Authority, have not yet gone to jail. See: http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/02/15/bi-partisan-deal-led-to-flint-water-poisoning-for-profit-the-karegnondi-water-authority-kwa/.
The following is an official message from DPSCD on upcoming Water Meetings:
Please read and share the following message I received as a DPSCD staff member, from Superintendent Dr. Vitti, regarding upcoming meetings related to water quality and shutoffs in our schools. Please share widely in your networks so we can be more well informed and diligent as a community.
Mail – email@example.com
To provide everyone in the district and the greater community to receive more information about the water situation in our schools and ask questions, we will conduct four engagement sessions in September from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the locations below. In the meantime, please visit our website on the water topic at http://detroitk12.org/content/drinking-water/ where we have included a thorough FAQ document that should address the majority of questions and concerns that you may have. This is also the site where final water results from each school will be posted.
Please note that the only topic that will be discussed at the meetings is DPSCD water in schools. Questions or comments related to other topics will not be addressed at the meetings.
Dates and Location 4:30 to 5:30 PM
Monday 9/10 – Mumford High School
Wednesday 9/12 – East English High School
Monday 9/17 – Western High School
Tuesday 9/18 – Ben Carson High School
Helen Moore, long-time leader of Keep the Vote No Takeover and her organization sponsored a meeting just after the Sept. 4 rally. VOD was not able to attend.
“Why are the news stories only saying the contaminated water is in DPS’s?,” she asked. “What about the charter schools who bought the schools from DPS. What about the other buildings in Detroit that have been there for years? How long has our water been contaminated? Who is covering up this crisis? We the people of Detroit and Welfare Rights have been warning us for years to no avail. We need answers and we are going to find out what has been covered up!!!!!!! IF YOU HAVE ANSWERS, ATTEND THE KEEP THE VOTE/NO TAKEOVER MEETING, TUE. AT 6PM, 11825 DEXTER CENTER. LET’S ORGANIZE BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!”
Please contact Elder Moore for updates on planned actions at 313-934-7721 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other contacts: Call 319-0870 for updates from the Moratorium NOW! Coalition.