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Tension grows between DWSD and customers over drainage fees

A DWSD interceptor sewer line during construction in 2001. This line is north of Detroit in the Clinton River watershed
Mark Brush
Michigan Radio

Tensions boiled over last night at a public hearing hosted by the Detroit Board of Water Commissioners. The hearing was held to address controversial drainage fees that will be applied to all residential properties by July 1st.

Residents and activists oppose the fees, saying they will only worsen the city’s ongoing issues with water affordability and shutoffs.

Demeeko Williams of Hydrate Detroit said, “We have an affordability problem in this city that you still refuse to deal with. How are we gonna pay these drainage fees?”

The department claims the fees are not a new charge and are designed to get all property owners on the same rate structure.

DWSD’s deputy director Polencia Mobley said all revenue generated by the drainage fees will pay for holding and treating water to prevent unwanted discharges into the Detroit and Rouge Rivers. “These are all projects that were required as part of our compliance with the Clean Water Act.”

Under the new fee structure, property owners throughout the city will be charged based on their parcel’s impervious acreage, or hard surfaces, like driveways or roofs. These hard surfaces do not allow rainwater or snowmelt to be absorbed into the ground. Instead, the water flows into the city’s combined sewer system.

Williams balked at the idea that residents will have to pay for something out of their control. “You can't charge the rain. You can't charge mother nature,” he said.

DWSD’s Chief Financial Officer, Tom Houghton, said the fees will generate $153 million in revenue.  

Joey Horan is a production assistant at Stateside. He lives on the banks of the Maumee River in Toledo, Ohio, where he also works as a freelance reporter.
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