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You're Kidding Me! -- Why Won't the City of Detroit Give These People Some Clean Running Water?

When the city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy in July of 2013, it became the largest municipality in U.S. history to enter Chapter 9 bankruptcy. For sure, the financial situation in Detroit is tight, but cutting off water to poor residents because they can't pay their water bill? Really?

Cutting off water supply

The water department in Detroit, known as the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD), has been cutting off the water supply to poor Detroit residents who can't pay their bill since the spring of 2014, after racking up $175 million in unpaid water bills. Residents affected by the action have complained that this is a violation of human rights. The city disagrees.

Violation of human rights?

Although the city disagrees, claiming there is no such legal right by residents to receive free water, residents affected by the action filed suit, resulting in an appeal to the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights to intervene on behalf of the city’s impoverished citizens. Residents filing suit tried to get the bankruptcy judge to hold off water shutoffs for six months, but the judge refused, saying he had no authority to do so.

Sticking points

The sticking points that muddy up the whole situation includes the fact that Detroit has doubled water rates over the past 10 years. There is also the fact that most of the delinquent accounts are residential. Out of nearly 165,000 delinquent accounts, only 11,000 delinquent accounts are commercial or industrial clients. In addition, denying clean water sources to thousands of Detroit's poor could result in more health problems.

Attorney Alice Jennings, who is representing residents fighting the water shutoffs, said she was "disappointed but not surprised" by the judge's ruling, and expressed her concern for the disregard of the issue of safety and the damage that could result from water shutoffs.

To read more, visit www.thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/09/29/3573249/detroit-water-shutoffs-rhodes-ruling/

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