Aug 19, 2019

Detroit Water Shutoffs Raise Concerns

More than 112,000 Detroit homes had water shut off sometime between 2014 & 2018

More than 112,000 Detroit homes had water shut off sometime between 2014 & 2018

The city of Detroit, Mich., shut off water in 11,800 homes in April 2019 and many are still disconnected. According to Bridge Magazine, city of Detroit records show that the 7,310 of 11,801 homes disconnected for water rate nonpayment were without water as of Aug. 1 since April 2019. 5,354 of those homes are believed to be occupied, according to Bridge Magazine.

In July 2019, several environmental and advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan, petitioned the Michigan Department Health and Human Services to intervene in water shutoffs, according to Michigan Radio. More than 112,000 Detroit homes had water shut off sometime between 2014 and 2018, ACLU Attorney Mark Fancher said. 

"When there is no water in the house, then mothers are not able to prepare infant formula to feed their babies," Fancher said, according to Michigan Radio. "People have put out containers in order to collect rainwater and illness frequently results from people who drink that."

71% of disconnected homes were restored since last fall. According to Bridge Magazine, at least 3,000 of the 5,300 occupied homes without water had been shut off for at least a month as of Aug. 1.

“It’s extremely alarming,” said Alisha Bell, chairwoman of the Wayne County Board of Commissioners whose district represents the west side of Detroit, according to Bridge Magazine. “Shutoffs should be used as an absolute last resort. We need to do a better job being protective of our seniors and those with children in their homes.”

According to Bridge Magazine, the city disconnected service to residents who are 60 days or $150 past due. Officials in the past have described shut offs as a short-term measure to improve accountability. 

Fortunately, the accountability has improved. According to Bridge Magazine, collection rates increased to more than 90% from less than 70% in 2013. This helps free another $50 million per year to pay for the aging water system.

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