Detroit’s unelected Emergency Manager Keyvn Orr has returned authority over the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and its board of commissioners to the Office of the Mayor, which immediately announced plans to drastically scale back the aggressive water shutoffs and approach missing payments more humanely. This is a crucial victory for activists fighting the UN-condemned shutoffs, after more than 14,000 homes lost their water access in the past several months.
Water officials began an aggressive shut off campaign in March, disconnecting 500 customers that month. More than 3,000 lost service in April and about 4,500 in May.
The shutoffs topped 7,200 in June and the water department collected $800,000 last month compared to about $150,000 in June 2013.
Mayor Mike Duggan has said water department officials could have been more sensitive in how they handled delinquent bills and the increased shutoffs. He promised Tuesday to have a “new plan shortly” on how to deal with the issue.
“I’ve heard complaints from many Detroiters who are trying to make payment arrangements, but who have faced long waits on the telephone or long lines at the DWSD offices,” Duggan said. “We’ve got to do a much better job of supporting those who are trying to do the right thing in making those payment arrangements.”
Previous Arsenal For Democracy coverage of this story can be found here.