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Stallworth: Detroit water shutoffs should end until customer service is better

Thomas Stallworth

Thomas Stallworth

Two to three-day waits for restoration once bill is settled is unacceptable

Families are being told that after they have paid their water bill they will have to wait two to three days before water service is restored, and that they must be available over a 24-hour period to meet the water department crew.

A working parent can’t afford to take a day off work to meet the water crew. The water department is playing hardball and refusing to work with people who are trying to pay their bills and get their service restored, and that is unacceptable and unnecessary.

Recent weeks have seen an increase in water shutoffs in the city of Detroit as the water department tries to collect some of the millions of dollars it is owed in unpaid water bills.

Customers receive a notice their water will be shut off, and then when they try to call and deal with their bill they face wait times of at least an hour. They are then told there is a two to three-day waiting period, and they must be available at any time during a 24-hour period.

Shutting off water to thousands of customers in the middle of summer without being able to promptly handle calls and restore service is an injustice to our community.

I can understand past-due bills have to be paid. But the water department should have a streamlined process in place, so once a bill is paid, the water is turned back on quickly. A home without water service is dangerous for a family, because food spoils and sanitary conditions deteriorate.

When this happens in the hot summer months it’s even worse. The department needs to act quicker to restore water service before we end up with a public health emergency in the city.

Water services should be brought under the auspices of the Michigan Public Service Commission to prevent situations like this from ever arising again.

I am going to work hard to convince my legislative colleagues water services should fall under MPSC oversight, which would protect consumers from unfair shut-off practices, unreasonable rate increases and poor customer service practices.

Just because someone may be behind on their water bill, does not mean they should be treated poorly and forced to endure a lengthy waiting period when they do settle up for water service to be restored. The water department announced recently they had more crews to do shutoffs. Now they need to find more crews to restore service just as quickly as it was shut off.

Rep. Thomas Stallworth, D-Detroit, is a candidate for the Michigan Senate, District 5.

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