UN Asked to Stop Detroit From Shutting Off Water
Activists say the city is violating poor residents' human rights
By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff
Posted Jun 23, 2014 1:28 PM CDT
This Oct. 24, 2012, photo shows an empty field north of Detroit's downtown.   (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

(Newser) – Detroit Water and Sewerage has been shutting off water to thousands of residents who are behind on paying their bills—and now a coalition of activists is asking the UN to get involved. As of March, nearly half of the city's 323,900 DWSD accounts were delinquent, the Detroit Free Press reported at the time. Since April, nearly 7,000 clients have lost water service, and some say they were never warned their water would be shut off, ThinkProgress reports. In a report last week to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, activists say some families have abandoned their homes after more than a year without water. "This is the worst violation of the human right to water I have ever seen outside of the worst slums," one of the activists says, per Fox 25.

Water rates have jumped 119% over the past decade—and will be raised by 8.7% July 1, a challenge for residents of a city with a 40% poverty rate. The activists' report cites a city rep who confirms that the shut-offs were to get more aggressive, targeting 3,000 delinquent customers per week, as of June 2. The activists also allege that DWSD is treating business clients—roughly half of which are also delinquent—differently, though a DWSD rep insists any account, either residential or commercial, gets shut down if it is $150 delinquent or 60 days in arrears. The activists say DWSD is trying to get rid of lower-income customers so the department will be more attractive to private investors for a potential takeover, Al Jazeera America reports, another charge DWSD denies. But privatization of the department is possible, Detroit has said, as the city works to lower its debt—$5 billion of which is tied to DWSD. (In slightly better news, last week Detroit got a $195 million life raft.)

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Showing 3 of 188 comments
Lefty_Libby
Jun 26, 2014 2:17 PM CDT
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-07-26/detroit-s-86-cent-water-debt-seen-delivering-profit-muni-credit.html Detroit’s 86-Cent Water Debt Seen Delivering Profit: Muni Credit By Brian Chappatta Jul 25, 2013 9:01 PM MT Detroit’s bankruptcy is providing a buying opportunity in the city’s $5.4 billion of water and sewer debts investors bet that bonds trading at the deepest discount since 2011 will get paid in full. The biggest Chapter 9 filing in U.S. history is scaring individuals away from the obligations, creating a chance to profit, said Tom Metzold at Eaton Vance Management and Paul Mansour at Conning. Detroit securities guaranteed by water and sewer fees would be refinanced and fully repaid under Emergency Financial Manager Kevyn Orr’s pre-bankruptcy proposal, unlike some general obligations he deemed unsecured. Investors still accept less than 100 cents on the dollar to part with the debt. Two series of water bonds backed by units of Assured Guaranty Ltd. (AGO) and MBIA Inc. (MBI) traded July 19 -- the day after Orr filed -- at 86 cents, the lowest since 2011, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Both companies said they would make full and timely payments to bondholders if Detroit doesn’t. “The chances of not getting paid 100 cents on the dollar, even for uninsured people, is as close to zero as possible,”said Metzold, who helps oversee about $28 billion of debt as co-director of municipal debt at Eaton Vance in Boston.
Gary Verderamo
Jun 25, 2014 2:51 AM CDT
This is one of those rare times where I will side with the liberals. Water is not only a basic right, but it is a basic necessity. In the old days there used to be strategically placed wells people could access. Nowadays, getting your own water is next to impossible. Under my grandparents' house is a natural water reserve that my grandfather had sunk a well into. He brought a sample of the water to the town and they told him it was unsafe water. He went back the next week with another sample and was told it was worse than the first sample. THE SECOND SAMPLE WAS TAP WATER and this happened 30-40 years ago!!! Someone else commented that the city has to purify and transport the water to your house. This is true but ISN'T THAT WHY WE PAY TAXES??? Not only that but they have cut us off from our own water sources and they provide it to us as if they own it. It's just another way the government exercises control over us. It's like those stories you hear about people being prosecuted by their town governments if the ponds on their properties get beyond a certain size. The town then considers it to be a reservoir and the town considers that to be their exclusive domain. It's ridiculous! Although, I don't think the UN has any business in this.
Tom Macdonald
Jun 24, 2014 6:20 PM CDT
what does the un have to do with us.they are trying to get the un to interfere with our rights keep the out of our busness and as a matter a fact get them out of the us,