Detroit Water Crisis

By Raquelle Seda, Detroit National Boricua Human Rights Network

 Every Friday several organizations and residents gather to protest the actions by Governor Rick Snyder and Emergency Manager Kevin Orr in what has come to be known as Freedom Fridays. Recently Freedom Fridays has been dedicated to highlighting EM’s attempt to privatize the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department by holding their weekly protest in front of the water building. In a city plagued by blight, massive foreclosures, high unemployment rates and a poverty rate that has increased 40% in the last decade, water rates have steadily been increasing to more than double the rates of other cities.  This past June, Detroit City Council approved another increase of 8.9%. While the local news have been reporting that high water rates are due to outstanding residential accounts, it has failed to mention the delinquent commercial accounts that owe hundreds of thousands of dollars including those of Ford Field, Joe Louis Arena and even a $5 million water bill that the State of Michigan has failed to pay.

Detroit’s struggle against emergency management has intensified with the water department’s campaign of massive shut offs to residents. The department is turning water off without a shut off notice, accounts only 1 month behind, and bills as low as $150.  Residents have also been shut off while disputing their bills after the city charged them for running water in neighboring abandoned houses. With recent international attention, including a United Nations panel calling the shut offs a violation of international human rights, Detroit residents have been joining local activists in mobilizing against the water department. The struggle intensified on the morning of July 10th with a civil disobedience action in front of the Homrich Wrecking Inc. facility where activists formed a human blockade in an attempt to prevent trucks from leaving the facility to shut off people’s water.  A total of 10 activists were arrested with intentions of continuing this action on a weekly basis.