After facing international condemnation for shutting off access to clean water for thousands of Detroit residents, the Detroit Free Press reported yesterday that the water department will finally begin pursuing corporate debts.
But it’s too little, too late. Over 7,000 residents already had their service cut off in June alone, before a single business faced the threat of collection. An estimated 40% of Detroit residents stand to lose water access by the end of the city’s brutal campaign to close delinquent accounts.
Firedoglake is mobilizing to help those who have and will lose access to the city’s water supply. We’re working with the Detroit Water Brigade, raising $2,000 to immediately purchase and send as many water jugs and coolers to their distribution centers as possible.
Judging by the debt figures released by the Free Press, it would have made a lot more sense to make businesses like Vargo Golf (which owes the city $478,208 across two properties) pay well before trying to strong-arm a couple hundred bucks each from the city’s poor. The state of Michigan itself owes the water department over $70,000.
It’s unclear why the city contracted with a company that could only shut off water access to residential customers but the department now contends it is finally equipped to take on delinquent corporate accounts.
Still, this does not instill much hope for Detroit’s residents. The water department’s Deputy Director, Darryl Latimer, contends that water “may be” a human rights issue, but appears to miss why people are so upset at the department’s choice to aggressively pursue residents during the hottest months of the year.
“I think that water may be a human rights issue. That’s not our issue,” Latimer said. “Water is a human right. But delivering to your home, purified. Who pays for that?”
Even after rates skyrocketed following Detroit’s landmark bankruptcy, the average Detroiter is still only billed around $70 per month for their water bill, putting even the worst serial offenders nowhere near the totals of the 36 delinquent businesses on the water department’s list. Forgoing payment plans and shutting off water for individual residents who are unable to pay such small bills is not going to fill the chasm made by the businesses totaling over $4.2 million in debt.