Detroit Residents Appeal to UN to Help End Mass Shut-offs of Water Service

detroit bankruptcy 1A coalition of welfare rights groups is appealing to the United Nations to assist Detroit residents in battling the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department over water shut-offs for delinquent bills.

In an eight-page report submitted this month to the Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, the groups, including the Detroit People’s Water Board, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and Blue Planet Project, say they are “outraged” about the alleged violation of the human right to water and are calling on authorities to restore service and stop further cutoffs.

The groups are calling the situation a “massive human rights atrocity” and pleading with the federal and state government to work with the bankrupt city to establish a fair and sustainable rate structure.

“The case of water cutoffs in the city of Detroit speaks to the deep racial divides and intractable economic and social inequality in access to services within the United States,” the report says, adding the shut-offs are a “last-ditch attempt” to make up for lost revenue.

“The burden of paying for city services has fallen onto the residents who have stayed within the economically depressed city, most of whom are African-American.”

Water department officials deny the allegations.

“The accusation that they’re making that we are targeting poor customers in massive shut-offs is not true,” said Curtrise Garner, a department spokeswoman. “We are seeking payments for our delinquent water and sewerage accounts. It’s consistent, but it’s not massive.”

In March, the utility announced it was starting a campaign to target tens of thousands of Detroiters with balances more than $150 overdue or more than two months behind on their payments. Of the nearly 324,000 Detroit water and sewerage accounts, half are overdue.

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