Detroit water department defends its shutoff policy

Detroit water department defends its shutoff policy

The water department of beleaguered city of Detroit defended its shutoff policy on Monday, arguing that it could not give away water for free. A coalition the ACLU, city residents and civil rights activists challenged the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department's shutoff policy and requested federal bankruptcy Judge Steven W. Rhodes, who is overseeing the city's bankruptcy case, to suspend shutoffs and restore service to residents who have lost it.

Sonal Mithani, attorney for the water department, stressed that the department would be breaching Michigan law and violating agreements with bondholders if it was forced to ignore overdue bills and forced to supply water for free.

Mithani acknowledged that "humanitarian" concerns were really very compelling but stressed that fairness was critical too. She pointed out that 60 per cent of residents of the city continued to pay their water bills on time.

Director Sue McCormick told the judge that it could potentially be very devastating in case the water department was ordered to stop shutoffs.

The Detroit Water & Sewerage Department stopped shutoffs for around a month in summer this year but the department resumed supply in August after Mayor Mike Duggan suggested people to put down 10 per cent of the bills and sign up for a payment plan. Still the mass shutoffs triggered severe public criticism.

As of July 31, nearly $86 million was owed on more than ninety thousand residential and commercial accounts overdue for at least 60 days.

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