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Detroit council prepares to urge Whitmer to declare public health emergency following water shutoffs

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The Detroit City Council could adopt a resolution soon asking Governor Gretchen Whitmer to declare water shutoffs a public health emergency. That’s according to a report in The Detroit News.

Civil rights groups have been pressing the governor to address water shutoffs. They say the problem has been building for decades.

Sylvia Orduño is with the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization.

“We’ve got to change the way it is that we’re addressing the problem of low-income customers being able to pay for it, and essentially saying that we understand that water is a human right and we’ve got to find a better way to deal with it when families are struggling to pay,” Orduño said.

Orduño says shutoffs force people to use unsanitary measures to get water into their homes. She says the problem has been building for years. And the answer is to treat clean water as a human right.

“These problems continue to be put as a blame on the residents themselves, when they really have nothing to do with how the system is operated or the ways in which the rates are defined," she said. "All we know is that we all have to have running water, clean drinking water in our homes.”

Tiffany Brown is the governor’s press secretary. She says the administration will wait and see what, if anything, is adopted by the council.

“At this point, we do not want to speculate on a resolution that we have not yet received. If and when we do receive the resolution, we will review it at that time.”

The ACLU and other civil rights groups have also asked the governor to order a moratorium on water service shutoffs.

Whitmer’s press secretary says she cannot comment on the request until it’s adopted by the city council and sent to the governor.

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Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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