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Detroit Shuts off Water to Residents While State Government Disputes Its Own $5 Million Water Bill

In late June, activists concerned about the mass shut offs of water service to Detroit’s poorest residents reached out to the United Nations. A statement from the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said, “According to international human rights law, it is the State’s obligation to provide urgent measures, including financial assistance, to ensure access to essential water and sanitation.” However it seems that the Detroit Water and Sewage Department has proceeded with the shut offs anyway.

According to an RT.com report from late June, a spokesperson for the DWSD claimed that “[m]any of the properties [DWSD] shut off are actually vacant structures, not occupied homes.” The report also notes that more than half of the customers paid their delinquent bills in 24 hours of being notified by DWSD, and that 40 percent of those who didn’t pay their bill within 48 hours.

In spite of all that, a report from The Daily Beast says “stories of residential shutoffs abound.” The city of Detroit is in bankruptcy, so they are scrambling to raise money. Interestingly, unlike condemned homes that still have people living in them, many businesses with significant water debt are exempt from these shutoffs.

However most glaring in the Beast report is that the State of Michigan owes the DWSD “more than $5 million.” A deputy press secretary named Dave Murray is on loan from Gov. Rick Snyder and is said to be “sheparding Detroit” through the bankruptcy. Murray claims that the bill is for a broken water main on state-held land that had been abandoned.

The citizens of Detroit are in arguably third-world conditions anyway, but cutting off their water service ends that argument on the wrong side. Still, the DWSD is in a tough position and it may be up to the rest of the states to bail Michigan out of this mess. Yet, in what is sure to be a contentious mid-term season, the will be little political will to do that.

Photo via Wikicommons

About the author

Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Along with news and current events, he writes about parenting, art, and personal stories. His serial fiction story "The Prophet Hustle" is available at JukePop.com and a forthcoming independent ebook about the cam-modeling industry "Dirty Little Windows" will be available later this summer.