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Detroit to begin water shutoffs Tuesday

Charles E. Ramirez, and Christine Ferretti

Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Department is set to begin Tuesday shutting off service to customers who haven’t paid their bills.

Linda Clark, a spokeswoman for the department, said they initially planned to begin the process Monday, but the water department’s director, Gary Brown, delayed it one day.

“We want to give our customers every opportunity to schedule arrangements,” Clark said. “We wanted to give them another day.”

DWSD officials estimate about 20,000 of its customers had defaulted on their payments and faced shutoffs as of 8 a.m. Monday.

She said the number could change by Tuesday morning.

“We’re receiving payments (on overdue accounts) every minute,” she said. “We’re also getting more than 250 phone calls coming in an hour. There aren’t any hard numbers at this point. It’s difficult to say because of the number of payments we’re processing.”

Clark said the process of shutting off service to customers with unpaid bills is equitable and does not focus on a particular neighborhood or part of the city.

She also said the department isn’t targeting customers who owe less than a $150 and are only a couple of months behind.

“We’re looking for those customers who we’ve repeatedly tried to reach and make contact,” Clark said.

She also reminds DWSD customers who are having trouble paying their water bills to contact the department and get enrolled in one of its two assistance programs — the WRAP Fund or the “10/30/50” plan.

Under the WRAP Fund, customers who are at 150 percent of the poverty level or below can get up to $1,000 a year in assistance in paying bills, plus up to $1,000 to fix minor plumbing issues leading to high usage.

In the “10/30/50” plan, customers pay a minimum of 10 percent of their past due amount, with the remaining amount to be paid over 12 to 24 months.

Last week Tuesday, Brown said the DWSD would begin this week shutting off service of customers who haven’t paid their bills or are not enrolled in payment plans. About 30,000 of the department’s residential and commercial customers are on payment plans.

DeMeeko Williams, chief coordinator for the Detroit Water Brigade, a volunteer group that helps families facing water shutoffs, said he dreads what’s coming.

“I can’t take one more summer of shutoffs happening,” Williams said.

He encourages anyone behind on their water bill to contact the DWSD to make at least a partial payment, if they can.

The DWSD has about 200,000 customers and about 175,000 of them are residential. The average bill is about $75.

(313) 222-2058