detroit water and sewerage department

Politics & Government
12:15 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

Forget left and right on water shut-offs. Let's figure out how to fix the non-payment problem

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.”

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Law
11:50 am
Mon July 21, 2014

DWSD will temporarily halt controversial water shutoffs

A DWSD spokeswoman insists this is a “pause," not a moratorium, to give people time to pay their overdue water bills.
Credit 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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Stateside
5:09 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Congressman Conyers says Detroit's water shut off is a human rights issue

Detroit's vigorous effort to collect some $90 million in unpaid water bills has resulted in water being shut off to thousands.

That's drawn angry attention from the United Nations and Congressman John Conyers. He calls this a human rights issue.

Conyers believes that the causes of this crisis include the economic problems with the country, deindustrialization, higher unemployment rates, population decline, and the number of families who cannot afford water.

“We want assurances that households won’t have their water cut off because they cannot afford to pay it, because water is a human right,” Conyers said.

Conyers said that when he advocates to keep water on in every household, he is not including the people who can afford water and simply are not paying the bill. He said 44% of households in Detroit live below the poverty line. These are the ones who need water.

“This is not an appeal for them to get free water. I think everyone that gets water should get a bill and should be held accountable for it,” Conyers said.

Conyers said the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is thinking of increasing shutoffs to 3,000 a week to help recoup financial losses.

He added that increasing shutoffs as a way to reducing the debt is counter-productive. If a disease breakout occurs because of lack of water, the city will end up with a health bill that will exceed the amount of money that is owed.

He wrote a letter to the president, asking for help from the Hardest Hit Fund.

The fund was set up in 2010 to provide targeted aid to states that were hit the hardest by the recession.

Conyers noted that Michigan has drawn down 41% of its total "Hardest Hit" allocation of more than $498 million.

Conyers said he would like to see the money used to on repairs and upkeep of the water pipes.

Conyers said he received an indirect response from the administration saying the Governor, the state treasury department, and others need to present a united proposal for the funds.

*Listen to full interview above. 

Stateside
4:35 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

One group in Detroit is providing water to those in need

Credit Andrew Pennebaker / Flickr

Detroit's water crisis is making world-wide headlines.

First came shut-off notices. Then water was turned off to nearly 15,000 customers in April through June, many of them low-income or seniors – or both.

The Detroit Water Brigade is one of the groups helping those who've lost water. The group has distributed over 300 cases of water in the past few weeks to Detroiters.

Deemeko Williams is the Chief Coordinator at Detroit Water Brigade.

“We provide lots of love, empathy, compassion, and we let people know that this is not their fault, but this now has become their fight,” Williams said.  

Donations are coming from their website detroitwaterbrigade.org, an Amazon wedding registry in the group's name set up to provide bottled water and supplies and resources hubs.

Williams said the best way to resolve the issue is to have the water board host a community meeting and let the thousands of residents who are suffering come and set up a payment plan.

Williams suggested that the meeting be help in Cobo Hall’s Grand River Ballroom from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for five days.

“We have 700,000 people that still live here in the City of Detroit, and the majority of them are falling through hard economic circumstances,” Williams said. “We call for an end to the shut off immediately!”

Williams says places like Comerica Park, Ford Field and Eastern Market are behind on their bills, yet still have running water.

“Joe Louis Arena owes $80,000. The V.A. hospital owes $131,000, and they are trying to run the buck on low-income and seniors to pay their bill and it’s unfair. It’s unjust,” Williams said.

To read more about Detroit water shutoffs click here

*Listen to full interview above. 

*If you’d like to find out more about the water shutoffs in Detroit, check the links below. You can also call 1-844-42-WATER if you live in Detroit and you’re water has been shut off.

-Bre'Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom. 

Politics & Government
5:57 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

Detroit is shutting off water to delinquent customers. But is everyone getting the same treatment?

In Detroit, controversy is raging over one of the few things the bankrupt city has in abundance: water.

So far this year, Detroit has shut off for 17,000 customers as it tries to collect millions in overdue bills.

But many residents are upset with how the city is going about it—and question whether some are getting special treatment.

“Here we are, giving out water…and we still owe on the water bill”

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Politics & Government
6:00 am
Mon July 7, 2014

As Detroit water shutoffs continue, groups look to provide emergency relief

Water bottles, with attached fliers, ready for distribution at the Dexter-Elmhurst Community Center.
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Thousands of Detroit residents are without water service right now due to unpaid bills—but social service agencies and community groups are trying to make sure no one goes thirsty.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department cut off service to more than 7500 delinquent account-holders in April and May—and ramped up shutoffs in June.

Department officials say it’s a necessary step to collect millions of dollars in back payments.

But critics say it’s caused real suffering, and could lead to a public health crisis.

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Politics & Government
4:44 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

Protesters call for immediate moratorium on Detroit water shut-offs

The National Action Network Detroit Chapter and community activists gathered in front of the governor's midtown office.
Credit Reem Nasr/Michigan Radio

Protesters voiced their anger Monday morning over the controversial water shut-offs in Detroit.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department sent out more than 46,000 shut-off notices this spring and has turned off water to about 4,500 customers.

Community activists and religious leaders met outside of Gov. Rick Snyder's midtown office. They asked him to impose an immediate moratorium on the shut-offs. They also want the city to work out an affordable payment plan based on a person's income.

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Politics & Government
7:10 pm
Sat June 28, 2014

Congressman appeals to Pres. Obama over Detroit water shutoffs

Rep. John Conyers seeks to stop the shutoffs for nonpayment. Conyers said in a statement Friday that actions represent "an overzealous and misguided approach to cost-cutting."
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Longtime Detroit Congressman John Conyers has sent letters to President Barack Obama and other officials requesting immediate action and relief regarding water shutoffs in the bankrupt city.

The Democrat seeks to stop the shutoffs for nonpayment. Conyers said in a statement Friday that actions represent "an overzealous and misguided approach to cost-cutting."

The water department, responsible for about $6 billion of Detroit's $18 billion in debt, is a major issue in bankruptcy.

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Stateside
4:48 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

Welfare rights group backs UN criticism over Detroit water shutoffs

Credit User: Firesmile / flickr

The United Nations says recent water shutoffs at the homes of poor Detroiters are a violation of international human rights.

That came after a letter was sent this week to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The letter came from a coalition of welfare rights groups. They accuse Detroit's water department of putting poor people at risk with mass shutoffs.

Back in March, the city began to shut off water service to more than 150,000 delinquent customers who collectively owed more than $118 million.

One of the groups appealing to the United Nations is the Blue Planet Project, based in Ottawa, Ontario. We were joined today by its founder Maude Barlow.

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Politics & Government
7:00 am
Thu June 26, 2014

Detroit water department defends shutoff campaign after UN criticism

Detroit Water and Sewerage Department Director Sue McCormick
Credit dwsd.org

The people who run Detroit’s water system faced fierce criticism Wednesday, after the United Nations issued a statement calling the city’s mass water shutoffs a possible human rights violation.

Critics lined up to blast officials at a Board of Water Commissioners meeting for ongoing efforts to cut off customers with unpaid bills.

Many cited the UN’s assertion that “when there is genuine inability to pay, human rights simply forbids disconnections.”

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Politics & Government
9:27 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Detroit water rates headed up, as department's future remains in limbo

A DWSD interceptor sewer line during construction in 2001. This line is north of Detroit in the Clinton River watershed
Credit Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Detroit Water and Sewerage Department officials say they’re working to put the system on sound financial footing – including raising rates and shutting off service to thousands of households.

Water department officials briefed the Detroit City Council on planned rate hikes Tuesday.

They propose hiking the typical Detroit residential customer’s water bill by 8.7% to 10.4%.

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Politics & Government
1:35 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

No "grand bargain" for Detroit's water department, as Orr considers private bids

As “grand bargain” legislation sails through Lansing, the fate of Detroit’s water department could become the biggest issue holding up a speedy exit from bankruptcy.

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr maintains the city needs to find some way to generate revenue from the system, which serves more than 4 million people in southeast Michigan.

Orr is still pursuing two different possibilities: spinning the department off to a regional water authority, or leasing it to a private operator.

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Politics & Government
10:58 am
Thu April 17, 2014

Detroit bankruptcy judge revives talks on regional water agency

A Detroit Water and Sewerage manhole cover.
Credit user rob zand / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - A judge has ordered the city of Detroit and the suburbs to further explore the creation of a regional water department.

Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes granted Wayne County's request Thursday to have the parties sit down with a mediator.

Detroit's water department provides water to Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has expressed interest in spinning off the department as a regional agency.

But some suburban leaders are concerned about future financial burdens on their residents.

The judge says the bankruptcy case is a "unique opportunity" to keep negotiating. Otherwise, Rhodes says the opportunity "will be lost forever."

Politics & Culture
5:06 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Stateside for Thursday, April 3, 2014

It's no surprise that shipping conditions on the Great Lakes are miserable, even though spring has officially sprung and the shipping season officially opened March 25.

No commercial traffic has yet made it to the Soo Locks and ice is still four feet thick in some places, particularly in Lake Superior. On today’s show, we speak with a member of the U.S. Coast Guard about what's being done about this.

Then, what happened as World War II brought women and minorities into Detroit's assembly plants?

And, the Detroit bankruptcy is starting to affect the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Water prices could go up, impacting consumers far outside the city. Daniel Howes joined us for our weekly check-in to tell us more.

Also, Phil Cavanagh became the third candidate to enter the race to replace Robert Ficano as Wayne County Executive.

First on the show, Michigan's economy may be pulling itself up and out of the Great Recession.

But our schools are still mired in an "education recession" and all of our children are paying the price.

That's the finding of the newest State of Michigan Education Report from The Education Trust-Midwest.

It's an eye-opening exercise to see how our state's schools and student performance compares to two states that are powering ahead in the national assessment: Massachusetts and Tennessee.

What lessons can Michigan learn from those two states?

The co-author of the new education report, Amber Arellano of The Education Trust-Midwest, joined us today.

Stateside
4:53 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Detroit bankruptcy struggle now affects Water and Sewerage Department

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The spotlight of the Detroit bankruptcy struggle is widening. From the DIA to the retirees and now to water.

As the clock ticks, emergency manager Kevyn Orr has fired the latest salvo in the increasingly testy talks with county representatives over the future of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes joined us today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

Politics & Government
6:00 am
Fri March 21, 2014

Orr looks to private sector for help with Detroit water department mess

Credit wikimedia commons

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr is looking at potential private operators for the city’s water system.

Orr says the city has been forced to consider leasing the water system to a private operator because talks to create a regional authority with suburban customers broke down.

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Politics & Government
1:36 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Fate of Detroit's water department a big question mark in city's plan to shed debts

Credit Kate Boicourt / IAN

What does the future hold for Detroit’s water and sewerage department?

We should have a better idea later this week, when the city’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, submits a landmark plan in bankruptcy court this week.

Orr must submit a plan of adjustment for how to deal with Detroit’s estimated $18 billion in long-term debt, and one major sticking point has been what to do with the water department.

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Politics & Government
10:24 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

A crucial week in talks to decide fate of Detroit's water system

Credit Kate Boicourt / IAN

Intense negotiations regarding the future of Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Department continued behind closed doors in federal court Tuesday.

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr is pushing hard for a deal that would largely transfer control of the water department to a regional water authority.

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Politics & Government
11:00 am
Fri October 18, 2013

Flint water rates to be reviewed

Flint's water and sewer rates have more than doubled since 2011, prompting many complaints and a lawsuit
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The rates Flint residents pay for water are going to be reviewed. 

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Politics & Government
12:28 pm
Mon October 7, 2013

Orr wants regional governance for Detroit Sewer and Water

A Detroit Water and Sewer main under contruction.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Under a plan being pushed by Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department would be overseen by a regional authority - something officials in cities and townships around Detroit have wanted for some time.

The Detroit News reports Orr's office is "fast-tracking" the creation of a regional authority:

Detroit’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, has been working with regional officials and water department board members on a plan. The authority would either own or lease the department, collect revenue from water bills and make payments to the city. The annual revenue could range from $60 million to $120 million, said Bill Nowling, Orr’s spokesman.

The move is critical to Orr’s bankruptcy strategy in part because it would provide the city with a secure revenue stream, Nowling said.

Detroit Water and Sewerage is undergoing a massive downsizing effort. The News reports the goal is to reduce the size of the workforce by 80% by 2017.

There are no details on how the regional authority would be structured yet.

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