DETROIT (WWJ) – Detroit’s water bill problems have leaked online, and now strangers are lending a hand to save residents from shutoffs.
The “Turn on Detroit’s Water” campaign website allows anonymous donors to make a direct payment to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department on behalf of a resident in need.
Donors simply sign up using an email address. After being matched, the donor will receive an account number and the past-due amount. Donors can then choose to pay the entire bill, or just a portion of the balance. Names are kept confidential and are not shared.
The campaign developed out of a Twitter discussion between Tiffani Ashley Bell and Kristy Tillman, who wanted to find a way to help Detroiters with their water issues. Both were skeptical of campaigns taking donations on behalf of residents facing water shutoffs, and wanted to create a program that would put donors directly in touch with the water department.
John Rice, who lives in Detroit, said the effort could have life-changing effects on someone in the community.
“You wake up one morning and you find that your bill has been paid and it’s like a blessing,” Rice told WWJ’s Ron Dewey. “It will give people a feeling of relief and it will just be better because everybody will be able to help one another out.”
The website also allows residents facing water shutoffs to submit their account information to be matched with a donor. For more information, visit www.detroit-water-project.herokuapp.com.
The water department stopped service to about 7,200 homes and businesses in June, compared to 1,570 in the same month last year. Water was restored to 43 percent after customers paid or worked out payment plans.
The city on Monday said it wouldn’t shut off water to people with unpaid bills for the next 15 days — the latest response to a controversy that led a well-attended protest last week.
Speaking live on WWJ Newsradio 950 last Friday, water department spokesman Curtrise Garner said shutting off people’s water due to non-payment is nothing something the department has always done.
If a resident owes more than $150 and is more than 60 days past due on their water bill, their water will be shut off, he said.
Are you a Detroit water customer? CLICK HERE information about paying your bill and resources to help.