*Disclaimer, the original version of this story incorrectly indicated there were 30,000 people at risk.
DETROIT (WWJ) – The continuing struggle for the city of Detroit to provide access to water — while dealing with mounting consumer delinquent water accounts took center stage at a recent council meeting.
There are over 9,000 residents at risk for losing their service over unpaid bills — something many feel is a violation of human rights.
A Detroit City Council meeting on the subject became heated on a number of occasions.
“We can say we gonna suspend something and it does not happen because the financial commission has the last say so over what happens with contracts that are over a certain amount,” said Council President Brenda Jones. “And as I sit on that board and I’m always probably a no-vote on a lot of these situations – but that’s one vote — there are other members — (to which another council member intervenes, saying “please, please”) I just have to say that’s why emergency management is the best mouse trap since slavery — it’s unconstitutional and it should to be challenged.”
Cecily McClellan of Detroit spoke in a public meeting about the shutoffs.
“We have suburbs right around us that today are still on 90-day water bills who still have an ordinance that they can not cut off the water but let me tell you a little bit about them people — that have already been cut off; now you have a shutoff fee of $40 — a cut-on fee of $40 — you have a $150 if you need to get your water turned on.”
Last month, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department began disconnecting nearly 18,000 accounts that had received their final 10-day notice.
Gary Brown, director of the water department, counters that as long as people come in and set up a payment plan their water will not be shut off.
In 2014, the issue of water rights come to national attention when the city of Detroit noted that nearly half of their customers couldn’t pay their bill.
As of 2016, Detroit’s estimated population was just over 677,000, a sharp decline from a peak of over 1.8 million in the 1950s.