Water apparently a luxury in Detroit

Thousands of Detroit residents are without water because they can't afford to pay the water bill, according to this article in the New York Times. Meanwhile, owners of sports arenas and golf courses owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in water bills but are not shut off.

A local news investigation revealed that Joe Louis Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings, owed $82,255 as of April. Ford Field, where the Detroit Lions play, owed more than $55,000. City-owned golf courses owed more than $400,000. As of July 2, none had paid. Mr. Latimer said the Department of Water and Sewerage would post notice, giving these commercial customers 10 days to pay before cutting service. But he did not say when.

And in the meantime the city is going after any customers who are more than 60 days late and owe at least $150.

The department reports that 60 percent of its customers pay in full or begin a payment plan within 24 hours of a shut-off, and water service is reinstated. Mr. Latimer said that this proved that many could afford their bills, and simply weren’t paying them.

The city of Detroit, which filed for bankruptcy protection a year ago, certainly has not just the right but the obligation to demand payment of outstanding bills.

But cutting water to homes risks a public health crisis.

Instead, the water department should more aggressively target delinquent commercial customers who carry a large share of the unpaid bills. It should enact a comprehensive plan to fix leaking pipes; flooded streets are common here, and water customers — whether the state or ordinary residents — must pay for sewerage, not just running water, and often are billed erroneously for these leaks.

The department must also ensure that water is shut off to abandoned buildings, and eliminate errors in address transfers. Mr. Latimer explained that the department used addresses rather than names as the collectible agent on an account — a problematic practice in a city of 80,000 vacancies, rife with foreclosures.

Ms. Cupp said that the average bill for the residents Wayne Metro has helped was $1,600; she saw one as high as $10,000. The water department’s standard payment plan requires at least a 30 percent down payment. This is out of reach for many. To increase participation, the department should eliminate the down payment, as well as the $30 reconnection fee it charges.

I pay a combination water-sewer bill of about $105. But that's because the EPA mandated that I build a pipeline to Streator's sewer line - to the tune of $2500 last year. The sewer bill is twice what it once was because I am paying for the new sewage treatment facility. None of this I mind because otherwise, the sewage would be pumped into old coal mine shafts that could eventually cause a sink hole. Better the extra $50 a month than losing the house.

But the Detroit water system is so broken it's like a third world country. The city and its residents are so poor that something as basic as water becomes unavailable to many of its citizens. They are trying to partner with non-profits to restore water service to the thousands of residents who have had their water turned off, but it won't be until later this summer that the program will be up and running.

 

Thousands of Detroit residents are without water because they can't afford to pay the water bill, according to this article in the New York Times. Meanwhile, owners of sports arenas and golf courses owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in water bills but are not shut off.

A local news investigation revealed that Joe Louis Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings, owed $82,255 as of April. Ford Field, where the Detroit Lions play, owed more than $55,000. City-owned golf courses owed more than $400,000. As of July 2, none had paid. Mr. Latimer said the Department of Water and Sewerage would post notice, giving these commercial customers 10 days to pay before cutting service. But he did not say when.

And in the meantime the city is going after any customers who are more than 60 days late and owe at least $150.

The department reports that 60 percent of its customers pay in full or begin a payment plan within 24 hours of a shut-off, and water service is reinstated. Mr. Latimer said that this proved that many could afford their bills, and simply weren’t paying them.

The city of Detroit, which filed for bankruptcy protection a year ago, certainly has not just the right but the obligation to demand payment of outstanding bills.

But cutting water to homes risks a public health crisis.

Instead, the water department should more aggressively target delinquent commercial customers who carry a large share of the unpaid bills. It should enact a comprehensive plan to fix leaking pipes; flooded streets are common here, and water customers — whether the state or ordinary residents — must pay for sewerage, not just running water, and often are billed erroneously for these leaks.

The department must also ensure that water is shut off to abandoned buildings, and eliminate errors in address transfers. Mr. Latimer explained that the department used addresses rather than names as the collectible agent on an account — a problematic practice in a city of 80,000 vacancies, rife with foreclosures.

Ms. Cupp said that the average bill for the residents Wayne Metro has helped was $1,600; she saw one as high as $10,000. The water department’s standard payment plan requires at least a 30 percent down payment. This is out of reach for many. To increase participation, the department should eliminate the down payment, as well as the $30 reconnection fee it charges.

I pay a combination water-sewer bill of about $105. But that's because the EPA mandated that I build a pipeline to Streator's sewer line - to the tune of $2500 last year. The sewer bill is twice what it once was because I am paying for the new sewage treatment facility. None of this I mind because otherwise, the sewage would be pumped into old coal mine shafts that could eventually cause a sink hole. Better the extra $50 a month than losing the house.

But the Detroit water system is so broken it's like a third world country. The city and its residents are so poor that something as basic as water becomes unavailable to many of its citizens. They are trying to partner with non-profits to restore water service to the thousands of residents who have had their water turned off, but it won't be until later this summer that the program will be up and running.

 

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