Common Sense Canadian

Detroit turns taps back on after outrage over private water control

PostedAugust 3, 2014 by in International

Detroit turns taps back on after outrage over private water control

Read this July 29 story from the Associated Press, via, on the latest twist in the battle ove water in Detroit.

DETROIT – Control of Detroit’s massive municipal water department, which has been widely criticized by the United Nations and others for widespread service shutoffs to thousands of customers, has been returned to the mayor’s office.

The move comes a week after the department said it would temporarily suspend shutoffs for customers who were 60 days or more behind on bills for 15 days, and a few months ahead of the expected handoff of financial control of the bankrupt city from a state-appointed manager back to Detroit’s elected leaders.

Detroit’s water system serves about 700,000 city residents and 4 million people in southeastern Michigan, but the city-owned water system has about $6 billion in debt that’s covered by bill payments. As of July 1, more than $89 million was owed on nearly 92,000 past-due residential and commercial accounts.

Water officials began an aggressive shut off campaign in March, disconnecting 500 customers that month. More than 3,000 lost service in April and about 4,500 in May.

The shutoffs topped 7,200 in June and collected $800,000 last month compared to about $150,000 in June 2013. But several groups appealed to the UN for support, and three UN experts responded the shutoffs could constitute a violation of the human right to water. A march and other protests also were held in Detroit.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is currently run by a board of commissioners, but the entity reported to previous mayors before the city’s emergency manager Kevyn Orr was appointed as emergency manager in August 2013, a job that tasked him with overseeing the city’s finances and most operations.

The city’s bankruptcy trial is slated to start in mid-August, and Orr’s 18-month term is up in September.

His order, announced Tuesday, July 29, 2014, restores control of the water system to the mayor’s office.

Earlier this month, the federal judge overseeing Detroit’s bankruptcy said the shutoffs were bringing bad publicity, and water officials later disclosed they were suspending the shutoffs to educate customers on payment plans. That grace period is set to end Aug. 6.

Mayor Mike Duggan has said water department officials could have been more sensitive in how they handled delinquent bills and the increased shutoffs. He promised Tuesday to have a “new plan shortly” on how to deal with the issue.



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Common Sense Canadian



    “Mayor Mike Duggan has said water department officials could have been more sensitive in how they handled delinquent bills and the increased shutoffs.”

    I don’t know how rude, or how sensitive, the bill collectors were. Each case deserves some investigation… that said, PAY UP. Fines – above and beyond water bills – should be assessed to the freeloaders. Sure, there are some that require extra-special, tender care. Stiff fines on the freeloaders should take care of that.

      Damien Gillis

      The question is whether water should be treated as a human right, in which case it should remain in public hands – or at least available to the public, regardless of delinquency…Is water, as the most basic of human needs, different than, say, telephone service or a magazine subscription?

        Lloyd Vivola

        Well clarified, Damien, from a journalistic point of view regarding the story as it unfolds in Detroit. Accordingly, to articulate further, it seems to me that we need to address such controversies beyond a simple human rights vs. balance-the-books debate which by extension gives the latter enough moral and legal validity to have its day in court, undoubtedly supported by a war chest and a small army of lawyers. Instead it should be obvious that any social order or governing authority, as organized or constructed by humans, which then begins to question in the slightest whether humans can be deprived of the life-giving elements of the land, the water, the air, the sun, should instead be the target of debate if not contempt. In other words, we’re all here and now in this together, but how and why did we ever get here in the first place? I am not advocating political unrest or revolution, nor would I advise we subscribe to any singular ideology, But instead a radical change in consciousness may be in order regarding any such social order and its supposed moral authority in such matters as well as those which involve our non-human relations in the biosphere. And I think we are now seeing something of the sort in the types of protest and forms of resistance that are galvanizing not just in Detroit but all around the world if too often unreported by mainstream media. That said, thanks for listening.

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