Detroit water department draws criticism from UN Experts for water shutoffs

DETROIT (WXYZ) - The Detroit Water & Sewerage Department is now shutting off water to thousands of people due to lack of payment.

That has activists and experts from the UN getting involved.

The issue is even making national headlines.

"I heard on the national news they were going to classify Detroit as a third world country, because water was shut off and they couldn't afford the payments," says one man from Detroit.

Mother Jasmine Woodruff tells us it impacts her children also saying "When they get up the wake up to not brushing their teeth, washing their face, nothing like that."

Downtown, a showdown is brewing. Activists with Michigan Coalition for human rights say "This can't stand. This is unconscionable. There can't be people without water in Detroit."

At a public meeting this afternoon at the water department, we saw more of the same.

People like Ann Rall with Michigan Welfare Rights told the Water Board "Every human being has the right to safe drinking water and sanitation."

The United Nations experts are also weighing in on roughly 3,000 shut-offs a week. In a statement, they say "Disconnection of water services because of failure to pay constitutes a violation of the human right to water and other International human rights.

"The average water bill in Detroit is $560, we're not shutting people's water off for $100," says Deputy Director of the Water Dept. William Latimer. He adds "This is not anything new. The department is shedding light on the delinquency problem in the city of Detroit."

It's little comfort for some who can't pay till tomorrow but need water today.

"I didn't resolve anything, I have to pay it tomorrow and they turn the water on once they get their money," says one Detroiter.

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