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Mass Water Shutoffs

detroit water“We’re trying to shift the behavioral payment patterns of our customer base right now …And so aggressively we’ll have a team of contractors coming in, in addition to our field teams.”

—   Constance Williams-Levye, DWSD representative

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is waging an “aggressive” water shut-off effort. DWSD warned Detroit residents and commercial property owners that if you owe more than $150 or are at least 60 days late on a water bill — expect to be shutoff. Property owners who do not or cannot pay will have a lien placed on their property and face foreclosure.

This mass shutoff effort represents a second wave of destruction for Detroit.  After a brutally cold winter — where many are already struggling to pay utility bills — to face water shutoff, in a city where 60 percent of children live in poverty, is beyond comprehension for a compassionate or responsible city official.

If this is an example of the improved city services promised by Gov. Rick Snyder and EM Kevyn Orr, Detroit doesn’t need this kind of “progress.”

In a March 6th interview with the Michigan Citizen, Orr said his focus is on balancing the books and was clear in discussing stopping evictions or other such efforts is beyond the scope of his work in Detroit.

Yet, in his plan for the city, he also counts on population growth and a possible water deal with the suburbs. This new effort to go after Detroit’s delinquent accounts could help him get his water agreement with the suburbs but won’t help with population growth.

Detroit cannot grow if policies consistently devastate neighborhoods. Detroit has already experienced massive population loss. Within 10 years, Detroit lost 25 percent of its population. The foreclosure crisis proved debilitating for the city and this water shutoff effort promises more destruction.

According to DWSD representatives, there are 323,900 accounts and more than half are delinquent. That list includes residential and commercial customers.  Approximately 154,000 households will be targeted.

This effort comes at a time when Orr is trying to sell the suburbs on a plan to regionalize DWSD. Macomb, Wayne and Oakland counties would pay $47 million a year to lease the department. Suburban leaders have criticized Detroit’s collections efforts and considerable level of delinquencies. They say they do not want to put up any money for the department and end up with Detroit’s water bills.

With absolute power, Orr and Snyder cannot further jeopardize the poor in Detroit.

Mayor Duggan and city council should not remain silent on this issue.

If you have received a final notice call DWSD at  313.267.8000.

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