The people of Detroit are still facing a water crisis, and city officials have done little to help them maintain access to the vital utility.
With an Ebola outbreak, rampant police brutality and national focus on the NFL’s poor code of personal conduct, the plight of Detroiters has been overpowered in the media. That’s why the ACLU of Michigan teamed up with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, to give everyone an update on where things stand with Detroit’s water crisis.
As it stands, thousands of families are still without water as the city of Detroit began shutting off their service over the summer because so many people were behind on their bills. This occurred about a year after the city was forced into bankruptcy.
There has been some effort from Good Samaritans across the country to help some families get current on the bills and regain service, but not everyone has been restored. What’s worse is that the city has continued to shut down people’s access as they become delinquent on their bills. Since much of Detroit’s population lives at or below the poverty line there are sweeping outages across the city. Community activist Valerie Jean Blakely even said in the video above that she witnessed workers from the Detroit Water Collections Project cutting service all along her block.
“They proceeded to head down my block and systematically go house-to-house and shut my neighbors off,” Valerie reported, adding that no special consideration was even given to her 86-year-old neighbor when she tried to intervene on the elderly woman’s behalf. “I went down to plead with them, and they ignored me and just proceeded.”
The city insists that it’s only cutting off the water for people who could otherwise afford to pay their outstanding bills and have simply chosen not to. According to Detroit Water and Sewerage Department policy, a representative is supposed to speak with a resident in person to see whether an account is current before cutting service. However, several victims of the crisis claim that they never got a chance to speak with any such officials before their water was shut off.
“My water was cut off for eight weeks. I didn’t even get a knock on the door,” claims community organizer Nicole Hill.
Some customers have temporarily been able to regain access, but over time, it’s predicted that the cut-off map will closely resemble if not exactly match the layout Detroit’s lower-income neighborhoods.
According to community organizer B. Anthony Holley, there is a trickle-down effect and cycle to Detroit’s water policy. “They don’t want you to see that the water is connected to the housing; the housing is connected to the land,” he said, explaining that this could eventually affect voting rights and business contracts.
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