It’s not a stretch to compare Detroit to a third-world country. Not anymore. It’s been seven weeks since water has been turned off to thousands of Detroit residents, many of them unemployed, many of them with families and children, some of them single mothers who are barely making ends meet, in a city where the poverty rate is about 40 percent.

It’s unconscionable that people like Nicole Hill don’t have water to wash dirty dishes, take showers or baths, wash clothes and flush toilets in the sweltering summer heat.

“It’s frightening, because you think this is something that only happens somewhere like Africa,” said Hill, a single mother, told The Los Angeles Times. “But now I know what they’re going through — when I get somewhere there’s a water faucet, I drink until my stomach hurts.”

Thousands of people in Detroit – my hometown – had their water turned off because they were behind on their bills. In April, the city cut service to 3,000 customers a week who were more than $150 in debt to the water utility company. And in May, the city threatened to cut service to another 4,531 residents.

All told, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department said it would begin shutting off service to more than 150,000 customers who were behind in their bills, according to the Detroit Free Press. It’s not right. It’s not fair. And it borders on criminal. And it’s become – quite correctly — a human rights issue.

A coalition of human rights groups appealed to the United Nations saying they are “outraged about the violation of the human right to water and sanitation in the City of Detroit and call on the authorities to take immediate action to restore water services and stop further cut-offs. The United Nations experts declared that the city of Detroit’s denial of water to thousands of residents who are unable to pay their bills “constitutes a violation of the human right to water” and may be discriminatory against African-Americans.

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15 thoughts on “COMMENTARY: Denying Detroiters Water Is A Human Rights Tragedy

  1. pam hubbard on said:

    What’s becoming criminal is the damage that we are doing to our children and communities with this everyone is responsible for me, and my actions, but me. How many of you are willing to work daily to make our lives better, and take responsibility for someone’s household who is not attempting to take responsibilty for their own lives. If you don’t pay for it, it is not yours. Utilities are not provided free of charge. The government that damaged that historical, beautiful cultural icon of a city were comprisedof us. We are responsible for our lives, actions and decisions. Start there and then we will see our communities restored to what they should be.

  2. Mac Ben on said:

    As if the money owed on these outstanding bills is only profit. It takes revenue (MONEY!!!) to bring these services into the city, filter it, and properly disperse it to individual homes. Water service costs money- you have to pay for it, otherwise who will?

  3. No one should be without water, but the truth is; if I don’t pay my bill they will turn my shit off just as fast. If I don’t pay my Mortgage, guess what?? My ass will be on the curb. You get what you pay for.

  4. African American woman on said:

    Fight back by paying your bills. Why do so many of us jump on the first victim bandwagon that rides by. Do any of you realize that we are the only group of people who do the wrong thing and then cry foul when it comes back to bite us. So essentially, NOTHING ends up being our own fault. Whether I owe money to the utility company or Microsoft owes money to the utility company, WHO CARES! I owe, so I should not be alarmed to wake up and find that utility gone! I bet you these same people have cigarettes, alcohol, junk food, weaves, nails, clothes, big screens and im sure there’s more than a few un- needed babies being made right now. People, its time we wake up and stop blaming everyone and everything else for our messes. We need to raise our expectations of one another, stop accepting this woe is me nonsense, start our own businesses and call our own shots. Until we as a people start tearing ourselves down, nothing will change.

  5. This is what happens when you have a no good Republican in office as governor and his boy is the Emergency Manager. They do not care about you if you are an African-American. America is Damned. Never forgive and never forget Snyder and Orr. This will spread from Philadelphia, to St.Louis, to Baltimore, to Oakland, to Atlanta, to Birmingham. Th Tea Party has declared war on us and we are to stupid fight back. America be Damned. .

  6. S­­­­­­­­­t­­­­­­­­­a­­­­­­­­­r­­­­­­­­­t­­­­­­­­­ w­­­­­­­­­o­­­­­­­­­rk­­­­­­­­­in­­­­­­­­­g a­­­­­­­­­t­­­­­­­­­ ho­­­­­­­­­m­­­­­­­­­e w­­­­­­­­­it­­­­­­­­­h G­­­­­­­­­oo­­­­­­­­­gl­­­­­­­­­e! It­­­­­­­­­’s by-­­­­­­­­­far­­­­­­­­­ the­­­­­­­­­ best­­­­­­­­­ j­­­­­­­­­ob­­­­­­­­­ I’v­­­­­­­­­e ha­­­­­­­­­d­­­­­­­­­. ­­­­­­­­­Last­­­­­­­­­ Thurs­­­­­­­­­day­­­­­­­­­ I­­­­­­­­­ go­­­­­­­­­t ­­­­­­­­­a ­­­­­­­­­bran­­­­­­­­­d­­­ n­­­­­­­­­ew ­­­­­­­­­BM­­­­­­­­­W ­­­­­­­­­since­­­­­­­­­ ­­­­­­­­­getti­­­­­­­­­ng­­­­­­­­­ a­­­­­­­­­ che­­­­­­­­­ck­­­­­­­­­ for­­­­­­­­­ ­­­­­­­­­$­­­­­­­­­6­­­­­­­­­474­­­­­­­­­ thi­­­­­­­­­s­­­­­­­­­ – ­­­­­­­­­4­­­­­­­­­ wee­­­­­­­­­ks p­­­­­­­­­ast­­­­­­­­­. I­­­­­­­­­ began­­­­­­­­­ this­­­­­­­­­ 8-months­­­­­­­­­ ago­­­­­­­­­ and­­­­­­­­­ immediately­­­­­­­­­ was­­­­­­­­ ­bringing­­­­­­­­­ home­­­­­­­­­ at­­­­­­­­­ least­­­­­­­­­ ­­­­­­­­­$­­­­­­­­­7­­­­­­­­­7­­­­­­­­­ pe­­­­­­­­­r ho­­­­­­­­­ur­­­­­­­­­. I­­­­­­­­­ work­­­­­­­­­ through­­­­­­­­­ this­­­­­­ ­­ link­­­­­­­­
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  7. Detroiters, are idiots, they can thank many of the crooked politicians, they repeatedly kept voting into office, like Kwame Kilpatrick, for part of the mess that they’re. There is absolutely nothing criminal about a utility company turning off your service for non payment, those people that work at the water company have bills to pay, and families to feed also. Do they think they can get free water, while the rest of us have to pay for our water.

    • Yes it is criminal to cut off water to a human being. You are crazy. Water is essential to life. You are taking water away from sick people, pregnant women, and children. One day ,the worm will turn and we will see if you like being without water. If you were unemployed and interviewing for a job how would you with water Fool? Are you a Snyder stooge? There are large corporate clients in Detroit who have not paid their water bills and yet their water was not cut off. Why. Why didn’t you ask that question.

      • Many of us have a water bill, electric bill, phone bill, etc., and if we don’t pay our utilities they will be shut off, as they should be. Turning these folks water off, is not criminal at all, they can’t expect to get a free ride, while the rest of us pay our bills. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich, or poor, black, or white, if you don’t pay your bills, you’re going to suffer the consequences, that’s the bottom line. Since, most of the people owe more than $150, it seems the water company gave these people an extension.

    • Do you not know that these dogs cut off the water of sick people, old people, pregnant women, and children. Why are you daring ti criticized the victims here and not the corporate customers who do not pay their bills. African-Americans are being attacked and we do not even have the courage to fight back. You are either with us or you are against us. It is as simple as that. God is keeping track of everyone who Uncle Toms for the Man.

      • I guarantee that AA are not the only ones without water in Detroit. Black people are not the only ones who don’t pay their bills. This is not a race issue.

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