Detroit raises cost of water as it shuts off water and sewage to 3,000 customers per month

June 21, 2014

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Good afternoon:

Shocking news from Detroit: Common Dreams is reporting that on Tuesday the Detroit City Council approved an 8.7% increase in the cost of water. This is the latest increase in a series of increases during the past decade that raised the cost of water by 119%.

This rate hike follows an announcement in March by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department that it would start turning off water for accounts that are past due. According to a late May Director’s Report from the DWSD, there were “44,273 shut-off notices sent to customers in April 2014” alone, resulting in “3,025 shut-offs for nonpayment, and additional collections of $400,000.”

The Detroit Free Press reports:

The average Detroit resident currently pays $64.99 per month for water and sewer charges, according to the department’s presentation at a public hearing last week. The rate hike will increase the average monthly bill, effective July 1, to $70.67 — an 8.7% increase.

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The plan to increase rates comes as the water department faces public criticism for its efforts to shut off water service for delinquent customers.

The water department announced in March it was resuming efforts to shut off water service to more than 150,000 delinquent customers in order to collect about $118 million in outstanding bills. The department said it would target customers whose bills are more than two months late and would shut off about 3,000 customers a week.

Residents are having difficulty paying their monthly water bills because 14.5% of the population is unemployed, 40% of the population is living below the poverty line, and residential property owners have been devastated by the forfeiture crisis.

Common Dreams reports that residents are especially upset about the threat to shut off water and sewage because,

“When delinquent corporate water lines are still running without collection of funds, it demonstrates a level of intentional disparity that devalues the lives of the people struggling financially,” said Lila Cabbil, President Emeritus of the Rosa Parks Institute, which is part of the People’s Water Board. “Where is our compassion? Where is our humanity?”

The Metro Times describes the situation,

As we reported this week, the department will continue to cut service to roughly 3,000 delinquent customers per week who owe at least $150 to try recouping some $118 million in outstanding fees. The department has said upwards of 80,000 households are behind on their bill. According to DWSD representatives, they cut service to 7,056 residential and commercial accounts in April and May, which is “reaping great benefits with the department” — about $400,000.

That shouldn’t be how the department tries to generate revenue, says Maude Barlow, chairman of the Food & Water Watch Board and founder of Blue Planet Project.

“By denying water service to thousands, Detroit is violating the human right to water,” Barlow says in a statement this week. “After decades of policies that put businesses and profits ahead of the public good, the city now has a major crisis on its hands. It is shocking and abominable that anyone would be subjected to these conditions.”

Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, who was appointed to power by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder in March 2013, wants to privatize the water company. He does not appear to be the least bit interested in pursuing a humanitarian approach.

The future is bleak for thousands of people who face the inevitable shut-off and cannot afford to move.

Rebuffed at home, organizations concerned about the growing humanitarian crisis have turned to the United Nations for assistance claiming that Detroit is violating a basic human right to clean water.

Here’s Common Dreams,

The Submission to the Special Rapporteur was released Wednesday by the Detroit People’s Water Board, the Blue Planet Project, the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and Food & Water Watch.

It calls for the “state of Michigan and U.S. government to respect the human right to water and sanitation” and for shut-offs to be halted, services restored, and water to be made accessible and affordable.

Never in my wildest paranoid nightmares did I envision people in a major urban center in the United States forced to drink unclean water and defecate in the streets.

Yet, after eliminating people’s jobs and stealing their homes, the rich are now determined to flog the poor by denying them clean water and sewage.

Do they not realize that feces in the street promotes disease and disease cannot be contained. Sooner or later they will reap the whirlwind caused by their evil greed and when at long last their wasted bodies are laid to rest, people will rejoice and dance on their graves.

BTW, the shameful mainstream media is ignoring this story.

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