In a telling sign of Detroit’s decline, activist groups who say the bankrupt city’s most vulnerable residents are being gouged by unaffordable water bills are appealing to the United Nations for help.
Al Jazeera America reported Sunday that local advocacy organizations asked the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to intervene in the Detroit Water and Sewage Department’s shutoff of water service to delinquent customers.
“What we see is a violation of the human right to water,” said Meera Karunananthan, an international campaigner with Canada’s Blue Planet Project, as quoted by Al Jazeera. “The U.S. has international obligations in terms of people’s right to water, and this is a blatant violation of that right. We’re hoping the U.N. will put pressure on the federal government and the state of Michigan to do something about it.”
The DWSD said in March that it planned to shut off service for up to 3,000 delinquent customers per week, according to the Detroit Free Press. There were 323,900 accounts with DWSD at the time — and nearly 50 percent of those accounts were delinquent.
“We really don’t want to shut off anyone’s water, but it’s really our duty to go after those who don’t pay, because if they don’t pay then our other customers pay for them,” DWSD spokeswoman Curtrise Garner said, as quoted by Al Jazeera. “That’s not fair to our other customers.”
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at email@example.com.