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Most Detroit water customers will get a brief reprieve from shutoffs this week

Running faucet
Melissa Benmark
Michigan Radio

Most Detroiters facing possible water shutoffs will get a short reprieve this week.

According to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, the reprieve is due to the July 4th holiday coming right in the middle of the week, not the high heat that’s expected to continue for the next few days.

“Since we don't perform service interruptions on Fridays and will not do so the day before the holiday, we decided to not do them this week at all and resume July 9,” spokesman Bryan Peckinpaugh said in an email. “DWSD wants to give residents an opportunity to avoid a service interruption by making a payment or enrolling in a [payment] plan this week.”

However, Peckinpaugh says customers found to have illegal water hook-ups will continue to be cut off this week.

It’s unclear how many Detroit customers currently face possible water service cuts. In April, DWSD pegged that numberat a little over 17,000 households. Peckinpaugh says an updated number should be available next week, and that almost 1,000 customers received door hanger warnings about impending shutoffs this past weekend.

Since 2014, DWSD has been aggressively cutting off customers who are more than 60 days or $150 past due on their water bills. That policy has been controversial, with some activists saying it’s created a permanent class of Detroiters who lack consistent access to water. They want the city to create plans for the lowest-income customers to pay water rates they can afford.

The overall number of shutoffs seems to have fallen off significantly since 2014, though some critics question the accuracy of DWSD’s numbers. Still, the department says it cut water service to more 19,000 Detroit customers over past-due bills in 2017, and that most customers who are shut off have service restored within a couple of days.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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