DETROIT, Mich. (AP) - Detroit's water system cited 79 customers for illegal water use in one recent three-day period and levied $21,750 in fees, a spokesman said.
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department has been cracking down on tens of thousands of nonpaying residential and business customers. Its collection effort for July 1-3 illustrates one of the challenges that the agency faces, department spokesman Greg Eno told the Detroit Free Press.
Overall, the department has said it is trying to collect about $90 million from about 90,000 delinquent accounts.
"It's another example of money that we're not getting that's due to us," said Eno. "Those people should be put on notice. ... If you're flat-out stealing, we're coming after you as well."
Running water illegally carries a $250 fee for the first offense, $500 for the second and $660 for the third. The department said it requires that the customer pay the fee in full before it works out a payment plan for service restoration.
Advocates for the poor have criticized the city's collection and shut-off campaign.
Michigan Welfare Rights Organization chairwoman Maureen Taylor said it is outrageous to add a $250 fee on top of bills that many customers are having trouble paying in the first place.
"I'm certain if there are people who have resorted to this situation, they were forced to," she said. "They didn't have a choice."
The city has said about $1 million is available in the Detroit Water Assistance Program to help people who can't afford their bills.