Thousands of residents in Detroit are living without water – and have been for weeks. The bankrupt city of Detroit issued cutoff notices to more than 40,000 residents who owed more than $150 in past due water bill charges. A spokesman for the city said while more than 40,000 cutoff notices were issued, only about 4,500 people actually had their water shut off.
According to rt.com 60 percent of affected customers paid their accounts in full and had their service restored immediately. The remaining 4o percent had their service restored within 48 hours.
While many recognize the financial troubles of Detroit and understand their need to recoup funds from the the unpaid water bills, they say residents who didn’t pay couldn’t pay and not providing them with water is denying them a basic human right.
In a statement released on June 27, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) said:
Since March, water service for up to 3,000 Detroit customers per week has been cut off due to an overzealous and misguided approach to cost-cutting by the Detroit Water and Sewage Department. As water rates have skyrocketed 119 percent over the past decade, upwards of 90,000 largely impoverished households are currently in arrears and in danger of termination. Regardless of the rationale for these cutoffs, the human consequences are unacceptable and unsustainable. The failure to reinstate water service means unsanitary conditions, malnutrition and disease for babies, the sick, and the elderly.
Conyers, in three separate letters to President Obama, the Health and Human Services Secretary and Detriot Waster and Sewage Department asked that the federal government release some of the $200 million in the Hardest Hit Fund still available for Michigan to help relieve some of the debt from these water bills; that the water crisis be made a public health emergency that is eligible for direct federal relief and that water service be returned to those who don’t have it in Detroit.
In addition, several national organizations have sent letters of appeal to the United Nations seeking support for an end to the water shutoff in Detroit.