Detroit council may ask Whitmer to end water shutoffs for poor

February 12, 2020, 12:05 PM

Council member Mary Sheffield


Detroit City Council may seek state intervention to curb a controversial water shutoff program now in its sixth year.

A draft resolution to be considered by the nine members asks Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to declare a public health crisis in the city and issue a moratorium on shutoffs for poor residents, The Detroit News repots.

The resolution, created at the request of Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield, is expected to come up for vote in the next couple of weeks. 

New data from Detroit's water department shows 23,000 households last year had their service cut for past-due payments. More than half of those accounts remained without service through at least December.

Detroit Water and Sewerage Department director Gary Brown tells The News he opposes an end to the shutoff practice, and instead wants to limit service disruptions by making payment assistance available to more people.

He also argued against a crisis declaration, saying there’s not enough data to show shutoffs jeopardize health. Detroit Health Director Denise Fair agreed, saying there's “no association between service interruptions and an epidemic of any reportable communicable disease."

Fair's predecessor has said the opposite. In his gubernatorial bid in 2018, former Detroit health director Abdul El-Sayed promised an end to water shutoffs, saying they had indeed created a public health crisis in the city.

Detroit is in the midst of a Hepatitis A outbreak, though there's some question as to whether shutoffs are to blame.

Read more:  The Detroit News

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