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17,000 Detroit Households At Risk For Water Shutoffs Next Month

Officials say that number is an improvement

March 26, 2018 - 3:17 pm

DETROIT (WWJ) - City officials say more than 17,000 Detroit households face possible water shutoffs next month, due to unpaid bills. 

While that may sound like a big number, it's an improvement over years past, according to Gary Brown, Director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

"Two years ago when I took over the water department there were 50,000 customers eligible to be shut off," Brown told WWJ's Zahra Huber. "There were 44,000 actually shut off....And last year, right around October-November, we had the number down to less than 2,000."

Officials expect that 17,000 figure to drop drastically after shutoff notices go out to the customers over the next few weeks.

"Once the four different communications go out to them, asking them to come in and work with us in our assistance program -- let us help you -- they will respond to those notices and will not be in shutoff status," Brown said. 

Brown believes fewer than 2,000 customers will have their water shut off once it's all said and done; and most of those 2,000 will work with the city and have their water back on within 24 hours.

The city made national headlines back in 2014, when more than a thousand people marched the streets of downtown Detroit calling for an immediate moratorium on water service shutoffs -- and raising the question of whether access to water is a basic human right. At that time, officials said more than $90 million was owed to the DWSD by residents and businesses combined. 

Brown said many of the residents affected at that time have received assistance and are on payment plans today.

What sort of help is available to Detroiters? 

"We will come out to your home, we will fix water leaks up to $1,000 so that you can get to an average bill, we will freeze arrears, we will give you dollars in the form of a monthly assistance credit to get your bill down," Brown said. 

Low-income Detroit residents seeking more information about the Water Residential Assistance Program (WRAP) can visit this link or call 313-386-WRAP (9727).