March 9, 2020

DETROIT – A coalition of civil rights attorneys and organizations that petitioned the Governor to end the Detroit water shutoffs welcomes today’s announcement that water service will be restored for thousands of Detroit families while COVID-19 remains a threat. As elected officials recognize the risk of a public health emergency for residents whose water has been terminated, this coalition continues to demand that elected officials follow the lead of other communities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Chicago, and enact a permanent solution in the form of a water affordability plan indexed to residents’ income. The Coronavirus is not the first, and will not be the last threat to public health that requires such fundamental shifts to just, equitable and human rights-respecting water affordability policies.

Today Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) officials announced a plan to go into effect Wednesday to restart Detroit residents’ water whose service has been terminated. Residents must call the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency at (313) 386-9727 in order to request restoration of their water service for one month to be paid by the state, and thereafter residents must pay $25 per month for the duration of the threat of this virus.

Mark Fancher, Racial Justice Project staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, has this reaction:

“Water is a human right regardless of whether there is a threat of any particular disease. Handwashing and access to clean running water are essential under the threat of COVID-19 just as they always have been, in order to prevent the spread of illnesses such as influenza which can have serious health implications. Many families coping with shutoffs were never able to afford market rates. After receiving one-time financial assistance from the WRAP program during the threat of COVID-19, it is likely they will find themselves in debt and facing loss of water service yet again. This COVID-19 situation proves once and for all that water shutoffs are a public health emergency, and it is past time to enact a water affordability plan to end this crisis.”

Many organizations have fought the Detroit water shutoffs for years through litigation and advocacy. Most recently, the coalition of civil rights lawyers and organizations publicly called on Governor Whitmer to impose a moratorium on water shutoffs in Detroit.

The coalition of organizations and law firms includes, among others: the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU); Edwards & Jennings; Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice; Detroit Justice Center; Jerome D. Goldberg, Esquire; Marine Adams Law, P.C.; and the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center.

This statement and further background is at:
https://www.aclumich.org/en/press-releases/civil-rights-coalition-welcomes-detroit-water-restart-plan-during-threat-covid-19

Stay Informed