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Detroit — Cold weather will slow water service shutoffs in Detroit, but not halt a nearly yearlong push to collect on accounts 60 days or $150 or more past due.

Crews have disconnected service to 31,300 customers since Jan. 1 due to unpaid bills and will continue that this winter — stopping only during long bouts of below freezing temperatures when the ground is too hard to dig to water connections, Detroit Water and Sewerage spokeswoman Curtrise Garner told The Associated Press.

“It has to be pretty low, below 32 for a long period of time,” Garner said. “Last year was really, really cold for a long time. We had a brief hiatus.”

Outside of spates of extreme cold, the water department will be “doing business as usual,” she said.

Shut-off numbers skyrocketed from about 1,200 from January through March to over 3,000 in April. The issue brought local, national and even international protesters to Detroit.

A several-week respite allowed people behind on their bills to enter into payment plans. Shutoffs dropped from a high of 7,200 in June to 1,600 in August. They have since picked back up with 5,100 in September and 4,200 last month.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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