Detroit Plans Mass Water Shutoffs over $260M in Delinquent Bills

Steve Pardo, Detroit News, March 21, 2014

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department has a message for Detroit residents and companies more than 60 days late on their water bills: We’re coming for you.

With more than half of the city’s customers behind on payments, the department is gearing up for an aggressive campaign to shut off service to 1,500-3,000 delinquent accounts weekly, said Darryl Latimer, the department’s deputy director.

Including businesses, schools and commercial buildings, there are 323,900 Detroit water and sewerage accounts; 164,938 were overdue for a total of $175 million as of March 6. Residential accounts total 296,115; 154,229 were delinquent for a total of $91.7 million.

The department halts cutoffs through the winter because of complications associated with freezing temperatures, such as damaged pipes. But this spring, a new contractor has been hired to target those who are more than two months behind or who owe more than $150—twice the average monthly bill of $75.


Up to 20 additional contractor crews are expected to be employed working on the cutoffs, DWSD officials said.

The department bills monthly and sends out notices when bills are overdue. When an account is more than 60 days late, a notice goes out saying service could be cut, Latimer said.

Residents don’t necessarily have to move out but Latimer said there were instances, in the case of households with children, where the department of social services will come in and say the kids will be removed from the home if water is not restored.


Department officials say the initiative is unrelated to Detroit’s bankruptcy restructuring and is simply a renewed effort to remedy a longstanding problem. The fear of being stuck with Detroit’s delinquencies, however, has kept suburban leaders from embracing a regional water authority proposed by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr.


On Monday, the department is scheduled to send mailings to thousands of customers warning if their overdue water balances aren’t paid, the bill would be considered a property tax lien and could result in foreclosure.

Communities pay a combination of a fixed amount per month as well as an amount for every thousand cubic feet of water—or every 7,480 gallons. {snip}



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