July 28, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Detroit water department releases video showing customer getting service restored

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department on Monday released a YouTube video showing water being restored at the home of an elderly Detroit woman whose service had been shut off for nonpayment.

The 1:21-long video shows crews turning the water back on to the home in the 200 block of Woodland. In the video, department Deputy Director Darryl Latimer says the department was contacted by an advocacy group. The resident owed more than $2,000 and the water had been turned off.

The department worked to get the woman on a payment plan, Latimer said.

“The department wants to help those folks that have affordability issues,” Latimer said. “It is not our goal to have anyone out of water. It doesn’t serve the department. It doesn’t serve our customers. That is just not helpful at all. What we want to reiterate is that if you have a hardship, if you have an affordability issue that you come to the department, you let us know and let us help you.”

The utility company has faced criticism for its handling of water shutoffs in recent months. An aggressive campaign targeted those who owe more than $150 or are at least two months behind on their payments. The company and contractors working for the department shut off water to more than 17,000 Detroiters since March. More than half had their water turned back on within two days after they either paid the overdue bills or went on a payment plan, department officials said. Last week, the department announced it was issuing a 15-day “pause” in water shutoffs to give people late on their bills time to make arrangements.

The department continues to investigate cases in which water is illegally turned back on. The fine for illegally using water is $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second and $660 for a third.

Of the nearly 177,000 active residential accounts in the city, more than 80,000 are past due to the tune of $43.4 million, according to department records.