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Detroit mayor's water plan falls short of what is needed

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Photo by Jeffrey Wang, Ziff Photography

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has announced a 10-point plan regarding the water shut-offs that have been happening in that city these past months. But his plan falls well short of what water justice activists have been demanding and leaves the door open for continued water shut-offs after August 25.

His plan is to:

1. Waive turn-on fees and late payment penalties.
2. Cut red tape.
3. Extend hours at Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) customer care centres.
4. Increase staffing at the DWSD call centre.
5. Cobo Water Fair Aug. 23.
6. Improve notification for customers in danger of shut-off.
7. Implement an affordable payment plan.
8. Provide financial assistance for low-income Detroit customers.
9. Build neighborhood partnerships.
10. Provide a clear way to give.

WDIV reports, "The United Way and the city have partnered to create the Detroit Water Fund. Customers eligible will receive a matching benefit of up to 25 percent from the fund, provided they make timely and regular payment of water bills."

Atpeace Makita, a spokesperson for the Detroit Water Brigade, says the mayor's plan doesn't go far enough and that a permanent moratorium on the shut-offs and income-based payment plans are needed. Moratorium NOW! Coalition, Stop the Theft of Our Pensions Committee, Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice and numerous other groups say, "Our demands remain the same: no shut-offs, turn everyone's water back on, claw back the swap fees and crush all efforts aimed at privatization." The Detroit People's Water Board and its allies have appealed to local authorities to start the affordability program that was adopted by the city in 2006, but never implemented. You can read more about the Affordability Program here.

Between March and June, more than 15,000 customers -- who were 60 days behind or who owed more than $150 -- had their water service shut off by the city. ABC News reports, "About 60 percent to 70 percent have been restored and officials say restorations continue, though officials say at least 20 percent of residences cut off are abandoned."

On Monday the city announced it would extend the moratorium on shut-offs through to August 25, meaning they could resume on August 26. Last Friday, Mayor Duggan testified in a deposition tied to the city's upcoming bankruptcy trial that, "I don't believe we have the right to tell them [the Board of Water Commissioners] to terminate it."

The Blue Planet Project and the Council of Canadians have been advocating against the water shut-offs and for the right to water and sanitation to be respected.

For an FAQ on the situation in Detroit, please click here.

Photo by Jeffrey Wang, Ziff Photography

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