DETROIT (WWJ) – “The Hulk just said to go. So go,” one person Tweeted.
Actor Mark Ruffalo is among those calling for a stop to water service shutoffs in Detroit, where he joined a massive protest march on Friday.
Rufflao, who you may recognize from the blockbuster film “The Avengers,” jumped on stage at a Cobo Center event Friday morning, according to witnesses, urging Netroots Nation conference attendees to take part in a march that was set to begin shortly outside the same venue.
“I’m here to shed a little light on what’s happening — the travesty that’s happening here in Detroit with these people’s water,” Ruffalo told WWJ Newsradio 950’s Sandra McNeil. “It’s an absolute travesty; you’d think we were living in a third world nation.”
“We’re happy to send money all over the world to help other people in their crisis, and we can’t take care of our own people; and the American people have got to know that this is wrong, and that it’s happening here and that it should be stopped,” Ruffalo said.
United Nations experts say water shutoffs due to overdue bills is a violation of international human rights.
The Detroit Department of Water and Sewerage stepped up the shutoffs in March to collect some of the nearly $90 million owed by residents, businesses and other customers with past-due accounts. Through June, more than $43 million was owed on over 80,000 city residential accounts.
The water department says about 17,000 customers are on payment plans, and officials try to work with those customers. It estimates about 90,000 active customers in are delinquent on their bills.
The U.N. has said water disconnections due to non-payment are “only permissible if it can be shown that the resident is able to pay but is not paying.”
Utility spokesman Bill Johnson says service has not been shut off to anyone who has come to the water department with a “legitimate problem” in paying their bill.
Addressing the issue of people having trouble trying to get their water back on, Johnson told WWJ a title deed is required because they have so many squatters in the homes that they need to be sure that the person who handles the bill is the one requesting the water be turned on. [More information from the water department HERE].
Friday’s demonstration was organized by the group National Nurses United, which claims the shutoffs pose a public health emergency. The group’s co-president, Jean Ross, called the shutoffs “inhumane.”
Water Department spokesman Greg Eno told the Associated Press that the city-owned utility has no plans to stop the shutoffs on accounts 60 days or more past due.