Detroit City Council to urge Gov. Whitmer to declare public health crisis over water shutoffs

Feb 12, 2020 at 12:30 pm
Spirit of Detroit. - Steve Neavling
Steve Neavling
Spirit of Detroit.

The city of Detroit has shut off water to nearly 150,000 homes for delinquent payments in the past seven years.

Now city council members are trying to stop the shutoffs until a water affordability plan is adopted.

At the behest of city council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield, the city council’s legal staff is drafting a resolution to implore the governor to declare a public health crisis and stop water shutoffs in the nation’s most impoverished big city.

Another measure would urge Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to impose a moratorium on shutoffs to give the city more time to adopt a plan to make it easier for lower-income residents to pay back their bills.

"We have a governor that is willing, I believe, to address the issue," Sheffield told The Detroit News. "The timing is right."

Duggan's administration took issue with claims that the water shutoffs represent a public health crisis.

"To date, the Detroit Health Department has found no association between service interruptions and an epidemic of any reportable communicable disease," Chief Health Public Officer Denise Fair of the Detroit Health Department tells Metro Times in a written statement. "We encourage any Detroiter at risk of service interruption to contact the Water Department immediately to get connected to programs that can assist."

For many residents who can’t afford their bills, water shutoffs can last months. Of the 23,000 shutoffs last year, more than half of those homes still had no water by the end of the year, according to The Detroit News.

The city caught international criticism when it began massive water shutoffs in 2014. The United Nations declared the shutoffs a violation of human rights.

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