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Ear to the Ground

Detroit Shuts Off Water to 150,000 People

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Posted on Jun 27, 2014

Photo by laszlo-photo (CC BY 2.0)

A coalition of human rights activists has asked the United Nations to intervene in the withholding of water access from 150,000 residents of Detroit who are at least two months behind on utility payments.

Liz Dwyer at Yahoo News reports:

Last week, advocates from the Detroit People’s Water Board, Food and Water Watch, Blue Planet Project, and Michigan Welfare Rights Organization submitted a comprehensive report to the U.N.’s special rapporteur that details the dire situation facing folks whose water has been cut off. 

“Sick people have been left without running water and working toilets. People recovering from surgery cannot wash and change bandages. Children cannot bathe, and parents cannot cook,” write the report’s authors. And “families concerned about children being taken away by authorities due to lack of water and sanitation services in the home have been sending their children to live with relatives and friends, which has an impact on school attendance and related activities.”

In 2013, Detroit declared bankruptcy—it’s $18 billion in the hole. Half of the 323,000 customers served by the city’s Department of Water and Sanitation have either paid their bills late or simply can’t afford service, to the tune of $175 million. Back in March, the department announced that it would be cutting service to residents who hadn’t paid up. Although the city claims that it started sending out notices about the disconnections in March, the report’s authors write that they heard “directly from people impacted by the water cutoffs who say they were given no warning and had no time to fill buckets, sinks, and tubs before losing access to water.”

“We really don’t want to shut off anyone’s water, but it’s really our duty to go after those who don’t pay, because if they don’t pay, then our other customers pay for them,” department spokesperson Curtrise Garner told Al Jazeera America. “That’s not fair to our other customers.”

Read more here.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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