Detroit water department

Families & Community
1:03 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

UN representatives hear Detroit's water grievances

Detroit skyline
Credit Ian Freimuth / flickr.com

Members of the United Nations Human Rights Commission heard testimony in Detroit this week from citizens who are struggling to secure affordable water and housing.

Nicole Hill is a Detroiter who has had her water shut off twice this year. Hill says the water department tells her she owes more than $6,000 — a number she vigorously disputes.

“I have asked for a hearing, and I was told that I could possibly get a hearing date sometime in 2015,” she said.

For Mignon Jennings, the cost of her water bill has put her in danger of losing her Detroit home.

“$3,000 for a water bill for one year? That’s ludicrous. That’s crazy. And I believe something needs to be done.”

The UN panel has criticized Detroit’s policy of cutting water service to people with delinquent bills.

Panel members issued recommendations on the situation Monday. They also met with Mayor Mike Duggan.

Duggan's chief of staff, Alexis Wiley, defended the administration's response to the water shutoffs, pointing out that the number of customers on payment plans has almost doubled to about 33,000 since Duggan announced his 10-point plan on dealing with them in August.

Wiley said the meeting was unproductive. "Unfortunately, it became clear shortly into the meeting that the UN representatives had reached their conclusions and prepared their recommendations before the meeting had even begun," she said in a statement, that also accused the UN of singling out Detroit for criticism of a "standard practice among utilities."

This Week in Michigan Politics
11:33 am
Wed September 24, 2014

High water rates, Cadillac moving its headquarters, and the debates

Water faucet.
Credit jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry sat down to discuss what's going on this week in Michigan politics. They covered the high price of water in Flint and Detroit, GM’s decision to move its Cadillac headquarters to New York, and the debates for Michigan governor and the U.S. Senate race.


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Politics & Government
9:47 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Duggan tries to sell Detroit City Council on new regional water authority

Credit via detroitmi.gov

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan pitched a proposal creating a new regional water authority to the Detroit City Council Wednesday.

Duggan has signed a memorandum of understanding moving day-to-day control over Detroit’s regional water system to a new Great Lakes Water Authority.

That Authority would be governed by a 6-member board, with representatives appointed by the city and Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties.

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Law
9:21 pm
Tue September 9, 2014

Detroit, suburbs reach breakthrough deal on regional water authority

Credit Kate Boicourt / IAN

After months of tense mediation in bankruptcy court, Detroit and suburban leaders have finally reached a deal on the city’s water system.

The 40-year agreement between the city and Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties will create the Great Lakes Water Authority.

Under the deal, Detroit will retain ownership of the whole system, and control over city operations.

The GLWA will lease and operate Detroit water system assets outside city limits. And it will pay Detroit $50 million a year to improve water infrastructure inside the city.

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Law
1:15 pm
Fri August 29, 2014

Detroit bankruptcy judge will hear more arguments about water shutoffs

Credit Ross Kuhn / via Facebook

Some Detroit residents and activists are trying to put water shutoffs on hold—again.

The Detroit water department resumed its residential water shut-off program for delinquent customers this week. It’s trying to collect more than $80 million in back payments.

The city had put the controversial program on hold for about a month, while holding water assistance fairs and giving those who struggle to pay their bills time to get on payment plans.

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Politics & Government
7:45 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

Duggan announces $200,000 donation for water assistance fund; shutoffs resume next week

Detroit officials are trying to boost aid programs for people who struggle to pay their water bills--before the city starts shutting off residential customers again.

The United Way and the philanthropic arms of Ford and General Motors announced a combined $200,000 in donations to the Detroit Water Fund Monday.

That fund is designed to help eligible Detroiters pay up to 25% of their delinquent water bill.

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Politics & Government
1:28 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

Detroit water dept: Our mistake was being "naive" about furor

Credit Michigan Green Party / Facebook

"Saying you work for the (Detroit Water and Sewerage) department these days is a bit like professing you molest children," wrote reporter Peter Rugh in his recent Vice article, "Who bled Detroit dry?"

OK, that's a tad much. 

But there's certainly a besieged feeling in the city's water department building these days.

For instance, getting into last week's Board of Water Commissioner's meeting, as a reporter, involved three security officers and approval from multiple public relations staff.

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Politics & Government
6:00 am
Tue July 29, 2014

Detroit has put water shutoffs on "pause"--but not across the board

The Detroit water department recently announced a temporary break in its campaign to cut service to delinquent customers—but some people are still being shut off.

Last week, water officials agreed to a 15-day “pause” in water shutoffs, which have ramped up since March as the department tries to collect millions in delinquent payments.

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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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Politics & Government
11:02 am
Sat July 19, 2014

Civil rights groups want to meet with Detroit officials about water crisis

Civil rights groups are asking to meet with Detroit officials about a controversial water shut-off campaign.

The ACLU and the NAACP want to meet with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to find a “fair, humane, and meaningful review process,” which would include adequate notice and a hearing to determine whether individual water customers can’t or won’t pay their bills.

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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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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
7:41 am
Tue June 18, 2013

In this morning's news: Palisades re-opens, Detroit's water dept., MI attorney general election

Morning News Roundup for Tuesday, June 18, 2013
User: Brother O'Mara Flickr

Palisades returns to service

The Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in southwestern Michigan re-opened yesterday after finishing repairs to a tank that leaked slightly radioactive water into Lake Michigan. The plant has had nine shutdowns since September 2011; company spokeswoman Lindsay Rose says the tank has been redesigned to guard against future leaks. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says there was no public health risk from the radioactive release.

Detroit's water department faces restructuring

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has big plans to restructure the city’s water department. It would largely keep the same governing structure, with representatives from Detroit and surrounding counties, but the authority would also pay Detroit to lease the department’s assets.

“Orr’s plan suggests that spinning the water department off to an authority would allow it refinance its debt, and borrow more readily for capital improvements,” Michigan Radio’s Sarah Cwiek reports.

MSU law professor running for Michigan attorney general

Michigan State University law professor, Mark Totten, announced yesterday that he is running for Michigan attorney general in 2014. Totten, a Democrat, used to be a federal prosecutor. Democrats will choose their attorney general candidate at a nominating convention next year; no other Democratic candidates have entered the race yet. Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette is expected to seek re-election.