UN Blasts Detroit Over Water Shut-Offs

October 21, 2014

Experts with the United Nations are condemning officials in Detroit for shutting-off water to thousands of customers behind on payments. The UN says Detroit is violating the basic human right to water and sanitation. A UN team spent three days talking with some of the roughly 27,000 past-due customers who have had their water turned off in Detroit. The team concluded that the bankrupt city is trying to raise revenue on the backs of its poor. The UN’s Leilani Farha says the US is bound by international human rights law – but Detroit is targeting a population where nearly half of the people live below the federal poverty line. Farha said, “You’re choosing at times to either pay for medical necessities or pay your water bill.” UN expert Catarina de Albuquerque says that creates an unconscionable dilemma. “If a mother tells me that I don’t boil rice because I don’t cook food that needs water, then we have a problem,” she said. Detroit officials counter that they have set up payment plans for customers and are providing millions of dollars in funding to help those in financial difficulty.
They add that Detroit is treating customers no differently than any other utility in the nation.