detroit water and sewerage department

Paul Hitzelberger / UPW

The Great Lakes Water Authority is now more or less a done deal.

The final big hurdle was to get current Detroit Water and Sewerage Department bondholders to agree to transfer more than $5 billion in debt to the new Authority.

A majority did agree to that this week.

Paul Hitzelberger / UPW

Detroit’s water and sewerage department is about to do its last financing deal ever.

As of January 1, the DWSD will transfer operations of its treatment plants and infrastructure outside to the new, regional Great Lakes Water Authority, which emerged from Detroit's bankruptcy process.

At least, that’s the plan.

A majority of the current water and sewer bondholders still need to sign off on it.

via dwsd.org

The new Great Lakes Water Authority held a national search for its first CEO, but the authority’s board ended up choosing a familiar candidate.

That candidate is Sue McCormick, the GLWA’s interim CEO. Prior to that, she headed the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department for more than three years.

She was praised by some for leading DWSD through Detroit’s bankruptcy, in which the water department played a key role.

William Warby / flickr

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department will lay off about 100 more employees this month.

That’s prompted some workers to sound the alarm. They warn that DWSD is already understaffed, and say laying off more workers could compromise water safety.

“We’ve lost chemists, engineers, instrument technicians … a whole range of people,” says Michael Mulholland, President of AFSCME Local 207, which represents some workers at the wastewater plant. “We’re concerned that what they’re doing is running it on a business model that is inappropriate and irresponsible.”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint officials are still working out the details of returning to Detroit water.

Last week, Gov. Snyder announced a $12 million plan to reconnect Flint to Detroit water.   The state is putting up half the money.  The rest is coming from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the city. 

A year and a half ago, Flint switched its drinking water source from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Flint River.  That was meant to be temporary while the new Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline was under construction.

Detroit mayor nominates water department leaders

Oct 6, 2015
Detroit Press Office

A new leadership team is planned for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Mayor Mike Duggan has nominated Gary Brown as director of the department and Palencia Mobley as deputy director and chief engineer.

The Board of Water Commissioners is expected to vote on the nominations Wednesday, according to the mayor's office. 

The Detroit City Council has reversed course and agreed to hike the city’s water and sewerage rates.

The Council voted 5-4 to approve a 7.5% increase Tuesday, after voting it down last month.

Kate Boicourt / IAN

The Detroit City Council will reconsider whether to raise the city’s water rates, after the state treasurer warned that could trigger greater state oversight of the city’s finances.

via Facebook

The Detroit City Council voted down a proposed jump in water rates Tuesday — and that means city officials have to figure out what to do now.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department says it needs the roughly $27 million that 7.5% rate hike would have provided.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A federal judge has dismissed a request for an injunction to force the city of Flint to return to Detroit's water system.

U.S. District Judge Judge Stephen J. Murphy III turned down the request today.

“The Court is unable to determine the Coalition’s legal theory, or even whether the Court has the power to grant the requested relief,” wrote Murphy in his opinion. 

State Rep. Kurt Heise, R-Plymouth.
Michigan Republicans

One state legislator says the process of creating a regional authority to manage southeast Michigan’s water needs to start from scratch.

The Great Lakes Water Authority was finalized last week. The Authority will lease and run what’s now the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s system outside Detroit city limits for $50 million a year.

jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

It's official: Detroit and the suburbs have struck a water deal.

Leaders voted today to let Detroit lease its massive, crumbling water and sewer system to a new, regional board called the Great Lakes Water Authority.

Paul Hitzelberger / United Photo Works

Detroit expects to shut off water to about 1,000 households this week, according to the city’s water department.

Earlier this month the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department hung about 3,000 door-hangers, warning people they had 10 days to get on a payment plan with the city, or be shut off.

jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

Detroiters behind on their water bills have a new place to turn for help.

The Heat and Warmth Fund, also known as THAW, has received a $1 million dollar donation to create a new water assistance fund.

Water faucet
user william_warby / Flickr

With water shutoffs in Detroit resuming as early as this week for some 18,000 households, activists say many officials are refusing to consider one possible solution: discounted bills for low-income residents.

Otherwise known as an affordability program, some activists say it’s a better option than the current assistance programs – which offer temporary financial help only after people are already behind on their water bills.

jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

Detroiters owe the city water department millions of dollars in late water bills – at least $47 million, according to a city report back in March.

And that makes rates higher for everybody in the city.

But with shutoffs resuming next week and some 18,000 households in “shutoff status” –  meaning they’re two months behind and owe more than $150 – the city is facing a crucial question.

Andrea Malone has been on and off payment plans for months.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Some 18,000 Detroit households could have their water shut off next week,  less than a year after the city started a program that was supposed to avoid this exact situation.

Payment plans were supposed to keep households from facing shut-offs. But those plans have shown themselves to be a failure.

Flint officials toast each other as they flip the switch to the Flint River.
WNEM-TV

 

 

Saturday marks the first anniversary of the city of Flint’s switch from Detroit water to the Flint River. It has not been an easy transition.  

 

“Here’s to Flint," Mayor Dayne Walling said as he raised a glass of water during a small ceremony at Flint’s water plant last April.  

 

Birmingham Public Schools

Bills are headed up for customers of the state’s largest water system, after Detroit’s regional board of water commissioners approved rate hikes today.

Commission chair James Fausone says the system’s budget will stay about the same, but it has revenue requirements to meet — and customers have been using less water in recent, wet years.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Cars started lining up at dawn today at a Flint business giving away free water.

Concerns about the safety of Flint’s tap water has created high demand for bottled water. 

But many Flint residents say they have trouble paying for what little bottled water is still sitting on store shelves. 

via city of Detroit

Detroit officials say they’re confident the fledgling Great Lakes Water Authority will work out—despite concerns and complaints from some suburban officials questioning its future.

The GLWA gives regional players a larger role in running Detroit’s city-owned water system, which services some 4 million customers in southeast Michigan.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint's emergency manager says he will not approve a return to Detroit's water system, even though the city's switch to using water from the Flint River has been rife with problems.

Flint ditched its water contract with Detroit, and began using water from the Flint River instead this spring.  Complaints surfaced early on about the water's taste. 

user rob zand / Flickr

Monday night "The Daily Show with John Stewart" brought attention to Detroit's controversial water shutoffs during a satirical news bit.

"Daily Show" correspondent Jessica Williams interviewed Nolan Finley of the Detroit News; Detroit Water Brigade Creative Director Atpeace Makita, and attorney Alice Jennings.

According to the Detroit News, Finley was interviewed about three weeks ago. 

Finley described how he approached the interview:

"I tried to present a complex issue as fairly as possible," he said. "They taped me for 90 minutes, looking for the 'gotcha' moment, and I'm pretty sure I probably provided it for them."

In the video, Finely's opinion strongly supports the idea that people should pay their bills and shouldn't be entitled to free water, an opinion the "Daily Show" unsurprisingly mocked.

Some tweeted their support for Finley:

In another tweet, Finley explains that during the initial taping he tried to avoid any further "gotcha" moments.

 

Makita's segment was taped Oct. 23 at the Detroit Water Brigade Headquarters and a viewing party was held last night at Anchor Bar.  You can view the full "Daily Show" interview below. (Go here if you don't see the video below.)  

The Daily Show
Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,The Daily Show on Facebook,Daily Show Video Archive

 - Tifini Kamara, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Cold weather will slow water shutoffs in Detroit, but not halt a nearly yearlong push to collect on past due accounts.

  Detroit Water Department spokeswoman Curtrise Garner tells The Associated Press that crews will stop disconnections only during long bouts of below freezing temperatures when the ground is too hard to reach water connections.

  Service has been disconnected to 31,300 customers since Jan. 1. A several-week moratorium allowed some customers to enter into payment plans.

Judge Steven Rhodes said he'll rule next Monday whether to put a temporary halt to Detroit's controversial water shutoffs.

Witness testimony continued in federal bankruptcy court Tuesday with hearings to determine the fate of that policy.

A coalition of Detroit residents and advocacy groups filed a lawsuit challenging the city’s controversial shutoff policy on constitutional and civil rights grounds.

A Detroit water shutoff notice for Haylard Management.
Ali Elisabeth / Michigan Radio

Witness testimony began in federal bankruptcy court this morning, in hearings to determine the fate of Detroit’s water shutoff policy.

A coalition of Detroit residents and advocacy groups filed a lawsuit challenging the city’s controversial shutoff policy on constitutional and civil rights grounds.

The Detroit water department has shut off around 19,000 customers this year – the vast majority of them residential accounts – in an effort to collect up to $120 million in delinquent bill payments.

Water department officials say the system simply can’t continue to function when thousands of people aren’t paying their bills.

Critics say the shutoff campaign has been inhumane, and the department is trying to correct decades of mismanagement, corruption, and incompetence on the backs of the poor in just a few months as Detroit speeds through bankruptcy court.

The first witnesses were Detroiters Tracy Peasant and Maurikia Lyda, who experienced the shutoff process.

Peasant became visibly emotional on the stand, as she testified about having to buy bottled water for her family when her water was shut off for 8 months.

From Sandra Svoboda at Next Chapter Detroit, Michigan Radio’s partner in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative:

[Peasant] said a large portion of her outstanding bill was due to a faulty sprinkler system at a home she had rented prior to living at her current place. Her water was turned off a year ago and restored in June.

“Someone came out to my home driving a DWSD truck. I thought that she was coming to turn the water back on. … She said I’m here to make sure your water is still cut off,” Peasant testified.

But when the worker saw Peasant’s family members, “She said I can’t do this with these kids and when she left she said you have water now,” Peasant said.

Peasant said she was denied access to assistance funds because her bill was too high, and the city never told her she could ask for a hearing to contest the bill.

Lyda testified that she tried to talk to someone at the water department about getting on a payment plan for her overdue bill, but was never able to get through. Again from Next Chapter Detroit:

“I called them several times. I could never get through. I was calling and no one would ever pick up the phone. There were days I would call and stay on the phone two and three hours at a time,” Lyda said. “When I finally got to talk to someone about my bill they was telling me there was so much I had to put down. …  I didn’t want to put it in my name because I was a renter. … they was telling me I had to put it in my name.”

Lyda, who lives on the east side, said a DWSD representative told her it would cost $100 to transfer the water service to her name and $500 to have service restored.

But the day the lawsuit was filed, her water was restored.

Plaintiffs want Judge Steven Rhodes to issue a moratorium on the water shutoffs.

The water department stepped up shutoffs in March of accounts 60 days behind or owing more than $150. About 15,000 customers had service shut off in April through June.

The city has faced international criticism for the shutoffs, and several groups appealed to the United Nations for support.

The shutoffs were suspended about a month this summer to give water officials time to inform customers about service stoppages and payment plans.

NOAA

This Week in Review Rina Miller and Jack Lessenberry discuss a plan to put a hold on the creation of new charter schools, Detroit mayor Mike Duggan’s idea for a new regional water authority, and Enbridge’s statement that it has fixed internal problems that lead to the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit City Council has approved the city’s participation in the Great Lakes Water Authority.

The city of Detroit currently owns and operates most of southeast Michigan’s regional water system.

The 40-year deal lets the city retain ownership of all the water system’s assets, and Detroit keep control of day-to-day operations within city limits.

But a new Great Lakes Water Authority takes control of operations outside the city. It will lease the regional assets for $50 million a year.

Update: The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department has announced a 15-day suspension of its controversial shutoff campaign.  

​Unless you’ve been completely out of touch, you know that the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department has been shutting off service to thousands of customers who haven’t paid their bills.

This has sparked huge controversy, protests and even condemnation from the United Nations. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes even got involved.

Last week, he told the deputy director of Detroit’s water department that shutting off water to city residents has, quote "caused not only a lot of anger in the city (but) also a lot of hardship."

And the judge added, "it’s caused a lot of bad publicity for the city it doesn’t need right now." That much is not in dispute. But not everyone is in agreement that this is an atrocity.

Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s emergency manager, supports the shutoffs, saying that the rule everywhere is that “if you use water, you have to pay for it.” He notes that there’s an assistance program, and says that if people are in trouble, “all they need to do is call.”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department will stop shutting off water service to people with unpaid bills.  

Curtrice Garner is a DWSD spokeswoman.  She insists this is a “pause," not a moratorium, to give people time to pay their overdue water bills.

“What we are going to do is temporarily stop the shutoffs or collections efforts,” says Garner, “However, after the 15 day period, we’ll commerce what we were doing which is shutting off those who are in delinquent status.”

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