'Give us what we need': Protesters in Detroit calling for city to extend moratorium on water shutoffs

Water protesters in Detroit
Photo credit Ryan Marshall

DETROIT (WWJ) – The city of Detroit’s moratorium on water shutoffs expired on Jan. 1, but a group of Detroiters says there’s still a need for affordable water.

That’s why dozens of people showed up outside Detroit City Hall on Tuesday, speaking out against the end to the moratorium and calling on officials to reinstate it.

Protesters with the People’s Water Board Coalition are demanding Mayor Mike Duggan continue the moratorium for all residents, not just those who apply for the city’s affordability program, Lifeline.

The Lifeline Plan offers fixed monthly rates, ranging from $18 to $56, based on income and how much water a household uses. The plan caps water usage at 4,500 gallons a month.

But the protesters say they want a permanent income-based water billing program to end shutoffs.

“You need to give us what we need. The people deserve a true affordability plan,” Detroiter Nicole Hill told WWJ’s Ryan Marshall in front of the Spirit of Detroit statue on Tuesday. “I am sitting here with compromised lungs because you shut my water off. No resident should have to live through a water shutoff. Affordability is a real issue and you need to do something about it and lifeline is not it.”

Hill said her family still stresses about having their water shut off.

“My children keep gallons of water in our basement because they never know when our water’s gonna get cut off again,” she said. “That’s not a way for a person to always live with one foot on a banana peel, waiting for the next shoe to drop.”

Detroit Water and Sewerage Department spokesman Bryan Peckinpaugh says, with Lifeline, there is a moratorium in place for all who apply..

“The program is not perfect,” he said. “We’ll continue to evolve it and make changes, but it is providing a lower monthly bill for households that would normally have an $80 bill, they’re now receiving an $18 bill because of their income qualifications.”

Peckinpaugh says more than 18,000 homeowners have signed up for the Lifeline program.

More information on the plan, including how to enroll can be found by calling Wayne Metro at (313) 386-9727 or visiting www.waynemetro.org/dwsdlifeline/.

The city also offers the 10/30/50 Plan, a payment arrangement for residents and businesses without income restrictions. It requires customers to make a down payment on their past due balance and spreads out the debt up to 24 months, along with regular monthly bills. More information on the plan can be found on the city’s website or by calling DWSD at (313) 267-8000.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Ryan Marshall