July 23, 2014 at 5:09 pm

NAACP denounces water shut-offs nationwide, cites Detroit controversy

'The passing of this resolution at our 105th National Convention is important because these water shut-offs have national implications,' Detroit Branch NAACP President the Rev. Wendell Anthony said in a released statement on Wednesday. (Steve Perez / The Detroit News)

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People passed a resolution Tuesday during its national convention denouncing public utility shut-offs involving the poor, the organization's local branch said.

The emergency resolution, passed at the 105th National Convention in Las Vegas, was prompted by the water shut-offs in Detroit, the Detroit Branch NAACP said.

On Monday, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department said it was suspending shut-offs in the city for 15 days to allow time for delinquent customers to settle their accounts.

The NAACP resolution cites potential health crises that can be caused by the numerous shut-offs and the disproportionate effect the shut-offs have on African-American households. The resolution also calls for the creation of policies and programs that prevent low-income and senior residents from having their utility services terminated or interrupted due to an inability to pay.

“The passing of this resolution at our 105th National Convention is important because these water shut-offs have national implications,” Detroit Branch NAACP President the Rev. Wendell Anthony said in a statement. "What's happening in Detroit is always foreshadowing of what can happen all around the country. This resolution shows the continued growing support from all over of providing real solutions to avert a potential crisis and violation of one of our most basic rights which is access to clean water.”

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund also sent letters to Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, Mayor Mike Duggan and water department Director Sue McCormick expressing their concerns, calling for the end to the water shut-offs and restoration of water to those who have already been cut off. The group was joined by the ACLU of Michigan in the effort.

The action by the NAACP comes as people and groups continue to rally against the water shut-offs. On Thursday, the Council of Canadians will deliver more than 200 gallons of tap water for families at a rally held by the People’s Water Board. The rally will be outside the Spirit of Detroit statue in front of City Hall.

The water department's attempt to crack down on widespread delinquencies amid the city's financial crisis has led to at least 42,000 shut-offs since July 2013. That has prompted a wave of criticism, including from the United Nations, celebrities and even the city's bankruptcy judge.

On Friday, a group called group called National Nurses United led a march and protests downtown Friday that led to nine arrests. The group said the shut-offs are a public health emergency and called for a moratorium on shutoffs.

State officials said they do not believe the shut-offs have caused a public health emergency in Detroit.

dnichols@detroitnews.com