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Detroit parking lots to get billed for wastewater treatment

Aug 20, 2016

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department says 22,000 owners of surface parking lots and other parcels covered in impervious materials like concrete need to start pitching in for the city's $125 million annual cost for wastewater treatment.

Gary Brown is Director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

"They do not have a water account," says Brown.  "They don't use water or sewage.  But yet when it rains, the water runs off their parking lot and into our sewers.  And it has to be cleaned at our wastewater treatment plant.  So they're getting the benefit of a service that others are paying for and they are not."

Owners of the parcels will get a letter in the next few days informing them of the change and notifying them what the charge will be.  The city charges $750 a month for a full acre's worth of impervious surface.  Most parking lot owners will pay around $25-50 a month, depending on the size of their lot.

Brown figures about 60% of the 22,000 parcel owners will end up paying the bills, since many of the properties have likely been abandoned.

And if someone responds by removing the concrete in order to avoid paying a monthly bill? 

Great, says Brown.  That's less stress on his wastewater treatment system, and will make the city greener.

"No other city in the nation has the urban land that we have," says Brown.  "What if we could get the churches and businesses and industry and commercial folks to adopt these properties, and build out green infrastructure projects?"

"That could make Detroit the greenest city in America," he adds.

Support for the Detroit Journalism Cooperative on Michigan Radio comes from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Renaissance Journalism's Michigan Reporting Initiative, the Ford Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.