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Detroit to shut off water to as many as 1,000 households this week

Paul Hitzelberger
United Photo Works

Detroit expects to shut off water to about 1,000 households this week, according to the city’s water department.

Earlier this month the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department hung about 3,000 door-hangers, warning people they had 10 days to get on a payment plan with the city, or be shut off.

Some 800 people actually did come in to get on those payment plans, according to the department. And the city expects more will do so once the shutoffs actually begin.

So people get on payment plans. Then what?

The payment plans allow people to keep their water on, so long as they stay current on their bills.

But recent history shows the majority of people who get on those plans, eventually fall back off.

The average water bill is about $75, and the average past due amount is $755, according to the water department.

There are multiple assistance funds for low-income people who can’t afford to pay their water bills. But that assistance is only available for a limited time, and only after people have already fallen behind on their bills.  

Some 18,000 households could get shutoff notices

Residents qualify for what the water department calls “shutoff status” if they owe more than $150 on their bills and they’re more than 60 days behind on payments.

About 18,000 households in Detroit are in shutoff status.

But the city only sent out about 3,000 shutoff notices so far, because of manpower restraints, according to Detroit Water and Sewerage Department spokesperson Curtrise Garner.

Garner says those 3,000 households were randomly generated by the department’s computer system. 

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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