Monday, July 14, 2014

Inhumane!: Detroit Shuts Off Water to Thousands of its Residents

Utility companies are quick to disconnect and shut off utilities, such as electricity and heat, even when the absence of those resources could mean the difference between life and death, sickness and health--during the coldest winter months and the most sizzling summer months. And all one needs to do to get a shut-off notice or to be disconnected is to miss one payment. If we are honest, many of us have been there.  We could have paid our bills on time for years, but let some emergency or something unexpected come up or  let us inadvertently miss a payment, and we are out of luck, especially if we cannot come up with a deposit plus the bill we missed. Our need for heat and/or electricity vary from season to season, but our need for water remains constant.  Human beings cannot survive for long and cannot remain healthy without water.  How in the world can we deny any human being access to water, unless we no longer see them as human beings but as entries in a ledger? How do we justify cutting off people's access to water at any time, but particularly when so many have lost their jobs or been subject to a decrease in pay during this latest economic recession or downturn, which we have yet to fully recover from? And I understand that Detroit Water and Sewage has been increasingly raising its rates during the recession. Few of us have been exempt, but the impact is greater on some than on others. And we must be our brothers and sisters keepers, if we would maintain some semblance of our own humanity.

One would think that we are living in a two-thirds world country (where famines occur all too often and a history of colonizat
Mouth of Lake Michigan
ion has stripped naked the land making it more vulnerable) and that water is scarce. But here are some facts about Michigan water: 

"Michigan is blessed with an abundance of water above and below the ground. Every drop of water that falls from the sky has the potential to contribute to the vast quantities of water that will flow into one of our Great Lakes. Water drops from rain are collected and stored in watersheds.
... A network of streams and rivers that flows to a larger river system will eventually end up in one of the Great Lakes. Michigan has 86 major watersheds. The longest watershed in the state, the Grand watershed, is 260 miles long. The largest drainage basin is the Saginaw River watershed which is approximately 8,709 square miles.
Michigan has 26,266 inland lakes throughout the state that are greater than one acre in size. The largest lake is Houghton Lake, which is 20,044 acres and has over 30 miles of shoreline. The Great Lakes has a shoreline of 3,288 miles. About 40 percent of the major rivers in the state flow into Lake Superior, 35 percent flow into Lake Michigan and 25 percent flow into Lake Huron and Lake Erie.
There are about 120 major rivers in Michigan. The total miles that these rivers cover is about 36,350 square miles. To put this in perspective Michigan has more square miles of rivers than the states of New Jersey, Connecticut, and the combined miles of Delaware and Rhode Island in total square miles." [Source:http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/michigan_water_facts ]

Yet, Detroit, a major US city within Michigan, has no qualms or conscience about cutting off the water supply to thousands of its individual customers, even those who may have missed only one payment or maybe as little as $40 in arrears (I am told). And it appears that many of those customers are the elderly, the poor, and children. Nonprofit organizations like We the People of Detroit and Detroit People's Platform and individual Michigan residents are raising their voices and opening their wallets to help those residents left without water for washing their bodies and clothes, for cooking and cleaning, for flushing their waste, and for drinking. The Detroit Water and Sewage company, according to Detroit People's Platform,"launched its most aggressive shutoff and collection campaign in the history of the department.   According to press accounts the department has pledged to shut off and disconnect from the city water supply an average of 1500 to 3000 households per week with an overall target of 30,000 households during the next several months.   We believe that this policy of water shutoff as a collection strategy in addition to posing serious ethical issues, also has serious public health impacts.  For example, shutoffs create unsanitary conditions leading to the transmission of dangerous bacteria contributing to increased UTIs; gastrointestinal problems; hepatitis A; influenza; and other diseases that are linked to unsafe water and poor sanitation.   Household water shutoffs also exacerbate adverse mental health conditions in the home and is likely to bring about anxiety, anger, depression and other post-traumatic stress disorder like symptoms. Further, we are concerned that the notice of water shutoff which signals by public health code that the residence is unfit for human habitation, will also trigger a child welfare crisis potentially leading to the removal of children from the home under the orders of the child protective services." 

It appears that Detroit is systematically and callously and inhumanely pushing people, the most push-able, the most vulnerable, out of the city or into a grave!

Recently, the Detroit Water and Sewage company has said that it will also begin to do to some local businesses what it has already done to some of the "least among us". This turn toward businesses comes after much protest from Michigan residents and  after the targeting of individual residents first--once again the needs and rights of corporations are placed above those of the ordinary citizen.


It seems that so far Detroit Water and Sewage and the Detroit Department of health and Wellness Promotion have turned a deaf ear to the citizens and organizations who are protesting the water shut-offs for the most vulnerable among us.  Detroit People's Platform is asking for the following considerations from Ms. Vernice Anthony, Director of Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion:



  • "As Public Health Officer for the City of Detroit, advise the mayor of the potential threat to public health in the face of the widespread water shutoffs;
  • As Public Health Officer for the City of Detroit call for a moratorium on all water shutoffs;
  • Recommend that as a matter of public policy a health impact assessment be conducted on the impact of water shutoffs on the population’s health with an analysis as to how these conditions further contribute to racial health inequities."
 I hope that people of faith and people of conscience will also stand up and speak out against this gross injustice.  In the meantime, donate some water or some money to help get someone some much needed water.

visit: http://www.unitingdetroiters.org/ for more info.

1 comment:

Lenora Smith said...

Thank you speaking out on this grossly inhumane predicament the people of Detroit find themselves in. It makes me wonder what influence politics has in this sickening toying with peoples lives? I am almost 1000% sure it is something because big business, politics and oppression go hand in hand. What a shame!!