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detroit water shutoffs

water going into cup from faucet
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

One candidate for governor says Michigan’s failure to provide clean, affordable water to all epitomizes its “political dysfunction.”

Abdul El-Sayed said this applies to the Flint water crisis, and to ongoing mass water shutoffs in Detroit--and there’s “pretty good evidence” the latter is also causing a “public health crisis” in Detroit.

El-Sayed is a Democrat, and a medical doctor. He was also the city of Detroit’s health department director.

Courtesy of the Detroit Health Department

Detroit activists are highlighting what they say is a growing public health crisis. Today they brought in medical experts from outside the city to discuss the potential health implications of mass water shutoffs in Detroit. They want a moratorium.

“There’s no question that access to safe and clean water from a health perspective is a top priority,” Detroit’s top health officer, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

Detroit is in the midst of turning off the water at homes with unpaid utility bills. Meanwhile, Philadelphia – another major city struggling with water affordability – recently launched a program allowing low-income residents to pay for water based on income, not usage. Philadelphia is the first city in the nation to enact such a program.

According to Peter Hammer, Wayne State University law professor and Director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights, Detroit activists came up with a similar water-affordability plan in 2003 that never gained political traction.

Ali Elisabeth / Michigan Radio

This week, community organizers in Detroit are bringing in experts to talk about the health implications of city-imposed mass water shutoffs. They want to highlight a research project done at Henry Ford Health System that showed a statistically significant correlation between water shutoffs and water-associated illness.

But Henry Ford Health System spokeswoman Brenda Craig warns the study was not conclusive because the city only provided block-level data, not specific addresses that have been turned off.

Keeria Myles sits on the front porch of her small white bungalow
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

 

Keeria Myles moved into a little white bungalow on Rosemont Ave. in Detroit last January. She had a furnace and water heater installed, and was starting to remodel the kitchen.

But then, she got a letter saying the house was in tax foreclosure and would be auctioned in September. Shortly after that, her water got shut off.

Members of the Homrich Nine before their initial trial in 2015.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

After nearly three years, a judge has dismissed charges against nine defendants arrested for protesting Detroit’s mass water shutoffs.

The so-called “Homrich Nine” were arrested in June 2014 for attempting to block trucks belonging to Homrich, the contractor the city uses to shut off water service to delinquent customers.

They were charged with disorderly conduct, a criminal misdemeanor. But the case was beset by numerous delays as city of Detroit lawyers, in the words of one defense attorney, “appealed every single ruling the judge made.”

Eric Norris / Flickr

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) has partnered with the DivDat Kiosk Network to make water bill payments more convenient. 

More than 15 percent of Detroit homes have their water shut off due to late or unpaid bills. 

DWSD conducted a soft-lauch in March to assess people's attitudes toward the kiosks.  

Interactive Map: Detroit water shutoffs by neighborhood

May 2, 2017
water faucet
Laura Nawrocik / Flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Last year, more than 27,000 Detroit homes had water shut off because of what the city says were unpaid bills. In some neighborhoods, 1-in-5 homes lost water access. To find your neighborhood, type in your Detroit address in the box in the upper right. When the map zooms in, click on the map for more information.

The sinkhole in Macomb County.
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

The state Legislature is back in Lansing after a two week break. Before they left for vacation, lawmakers in the House and Senate were at odds over how to fund a fix for the sinkhole mess in Macomb County. This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry talk about whether legislators will be able to play nice long enough to get this sorted out.

What can we learn about water from the people in Bolivia?
Florence.S / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

For centuries, residents of the Great Lakes state have been able to take water for granted. But the Flint water crisis, coupled with 70,000 households in Detroit having their water shut off, have forced Michigan to confront water issues in a way we never have before.

(Support trusted journalism like this in Michigan. Give what you can here.)

Valerie Vande Panne, an award-winning journalist, thinks that in order to learn from these water crises, we need to look to the south. To Bolivia. That's where people fought back, and won, against corporate water control.

water faucet
Laura Nawrocik / Flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A group of water activists who have had their trial delayed for over two years are ready for it to move forward.

The so-called Homrich Nine were charged with disorderly conduct after blocking the trucks scheduled to complete water shutoffs in Detroit from leaving Homrich Inc. back in July of 2014.

The activists wanted to go to trial to present a moral case against shutoffs, but the case was delayed for several reasons.

Detroit water shutoffs contract doubles in a year

Oct 14, 2016
Water faucet
user william_warby / Flickr

A contract to discontinue water to delinquent Detroit homes has gone up to $12.7 million in three years without approval from City Council.

Joel Kurth of the The Detroit News reports the city's contract with Homrich Wrecking Inc. was supposed to resolve the plethora of delinquent water bills in Detroit in two-years by requiring residents to accept payment plans. The contract signed in 2013 was for $5.6 million, but it has received four extensions since then.

University of Michigan Professor Rosina Bierbaum says scandals like Flint's water crisis have eroded public trust in the safety of drinking water
Courtesy of Raiz Up

 


When does graffiti cross the line from artistic political statement to crime?

That’s the question raised in the criminal charges leveled against Antonio Cosme. In November 2014, he allegedly spray painted “Free The Water,” with the image of a fist, on the side of a water tower in Highland Park.

A year and a half passed, and Cosme was charged with malicious destruction of property and trespassing. His pre-trial date is this Friday. He is currently raising money to support the court fees.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

A program meant to help struggling Detroiters pay their water bills is accepting more applicants now.

There had been some confusion about how much money was in the pot for the Water Residential Assistance Program (WRAP).

The Wayne Metro Community Action Agency, which runs the WRAP for the Great Lakes Water Authority, said just this week that it wasn’t accepting new clients because it had already committed all its funding for the year.

Members of the so-called "Homrich 9" before their initial trial.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Why has a criminal misdemeanor case involving seven Detroit protesters been stalled for nearly nine months?

Those defendants and their lawyers want to know, and in a letter sent to Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Michael Hathaway, they petition him to resolve the case “promptly.”

The defendants, part of the self-proclaimed “Homrich 9,” had briefly blocked contractors’ trucks tasked with shutting off water to Detroit homes.

Ali Elisabeth / Michigan Radio

Detroiters looking for help with their water bills are hitting some barriers, as a new aid program tries to get a handle on its funding situation, and navigate confusion between the different agencies involved.

The Water Residential Assistance Program (WRAP) just launched in March. It was touted as a comprehensive solution to Detroit’s chronic problem with delinquent water bills, and the subsequent service shutoffs that have hit tens of thousands of households over the past three years.

A map shows the link between water debt and property tax foreclosures in Detroit.
We the People of Detroit Community Research Collective

New citizen-led research is drawing a link between two of Detroit’s biggest social crises: water service shutoffs, and property tax foreclosures.

The We the People of Detroit Community Research Collective gathered that data for its report “Mapping the Water Crisis: The Dismantling of African American Neighborhoods in Detroit.”

Detroit’s aggressive and controversial water shutoff policy for delinquent households was ramped up during the city’s bankruptcy, and has continued with some modifications since then.

Ali Elisabeth / Michigan Radio

One week after Detroit resumed water shut offs to residential customers behind on their bills, more than 1,800 households saw their service turned off. 

But city officials say another 3,000 customers avoided shutoffs in the last week in two ways:

1) by paying their bills, which 765 customers did, according to official numbers.

2) by getting on a new payment plan, as 1,892 customers opted to do. 

Those payment plans allow residents to pay off their past-due bills a little bit each month, on top of paying new monthly water bills.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

Some 20,000 Detroit water customers could have their water shut off starting Tuesday.

That's how many are behind on their bills, according to the city.

In Detroit, the average monthly water bill is $75. The average past due amount? $633.

All those unpaid bills add up: Last March, the city was owed some $47 million in past-due residential bills – though a department spokesperson said they’re not sure what the current amount owed is, because so many people are currently making payments to avoid shutoffs.

Ali Elisabeth / Michigan Radio

Detroit water customers behind on their bills have one more day to set things straight — or possibly face having their service cut off.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is hosting a customer assistance fair on Saturday.

The idea is to provide a one-stop customer service blitz for the roughly 23,000 Detroiters who have defaulted on payment plans, or are otherwise delinquent on their bills.

DWSD director Gary Brown had this message for them: “You need to come into the fair and get current on your plan.

Ali Elisabeth / Michigan Radio

Detroit will start shutting off water to residential customers behind on their bills next week.

23,000 households that have defaulted on payment plans could face service interruption.

This is the third straight year that Detroit is pursuing its controversial, aggressive shutoff policy. Just a little over 23,000 households were shut off last year.

city of Detroit skyline
James Marvin Phelps / Flicker

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is no longer placing door notices on homes of customers who haven't paid their bills.

Instead, the department is encouraging customers to look for the notices on their bills in the mail, or check them online. 

Bryan Peckinpaugh, spokesman for DWSD, said bills have a clearly labeled "account status" box on them, with bold font to let people know if they are behind or in danger of being shut off. 

He said the department cut the door tags to save money. But, he said DWSD uses additional means to reach people.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

After months of highly unusual legal maneuvers, two Detroit protesters still don’t know if a jury will ever decide their case.

They were part of a group, dubbed the “Homrich 9,” arrested for protesting Detroit’s mass water shutoffs in the summer of 2014. They had tried to block trucks that were charged with carrying out the shutoffs.

Two defendants, Reverend Bill Wylie-Kellerman and Marian Kramer, had a two-week trial on misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges in November.

MacIntyre Family

Water issues are on the agenda for many state and local leaders in 2016.

A “blue-ribbon committee” has been investigating how to make water affordable for all Detroiters, and avoid the mass shutoffs the city has carried out since mid-2014.

Some people have called for a city-wide “water affordability” plan, with bills adjusted by income.

via d-rem.org

In an unusual move, a Wayne County judge has stepped in to halt a trial in progress in a lower court.

Two Detroit activists are on trial for disorderly conduct, a criminal misdemeanor, in 36th District Court.

They were part of a group of people arrested in July 2014 for protesting Detroit’s mass water shutoffs.

The case was about to go to the jury, but city lawyers, unhappy with the proceedings, wanted a mistrial. District Court Judge Ruth Garrett denied the request.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Two of Detroit’s self-proclaimed “water warriors” are speaking up about their court case.

The activists are on trial for alleged disorderly conduct during a July 2014 protest, when nine people attempted to blockade trucks belonging to Homrich, the company that does water shutoffs in Detroit.

Those mass water shutoffs are central to their defense, according to attorney Julie Hurwitz.

via d-rem.org

Two Detroit activists went on trial Friday for protesting the city’s controversial water shut-off policies.

The case stems from a July 2014 protest, when nine people blocked trucks belonging to Homrich, the contractor that performs shutoffs for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

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.

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.

The politics of water

Mar 25, 2015
satellite map of Michigan, the Great Lakes
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry talk about the politics of water.

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