Activists protest Detroit water shutoffs

Detroit News

December 2, 2015

About 25 activists on Wednesday protested water shutoffs outside Detroit Water and Sewerage offices in downtown Detroit and lobbied for an income-based billing system.

Carrying signs and chanting slogans, members of the People’s Water Board, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and other groups said the shutoffs that dominated headlines in 2014 still pose problems for thousands of residents.

“What kind of people, government or administration would go to the extreme of shutting water off to seniors, veterans and people with children?” asked Maureen Taylor, state chair of the welfare rights group.

She and others argued that residents want affordable service and “nobody is asking for any damn free water.”

Last year, efforts to collect millions of dollars in unpaid bills led to more than 30,000 and a backlash that drew international attention. The department has convened a panel to study altering bills to cap rates for lower-income residents. It is expected to make recommendations to the City Council in January.

Gary Brown, director of the water department, said more than 40,000 customers have been put on payment plans and several programs are available to help those in need.

“I’m not saying there aren’t people out there struggling and unable to pay bills, but if you are in that situation, come in and let us find resources, dollars that we have available to help,” he told The News this week.