UN experts condemn Detroit water shutoffs
Mayor’s office says UN is wrong, ‘everybody’s gotta pay’
By Curt Guyette
Special to the Michigan Citizen
During the three days she spent in Detroit investigating the water shutoff crisis, there were a number of times when Catarina de Albuquerque’s jaw literally dropped.
A United Nations human rights expert on issues involving water and sanitation, Albuquerque would sit, mouth agape, astonished by what she was hearing from residents and their advocates.
“I heard testimonies from poor, African American residents of Detroit who were forced to make impossible choices — to pay the water bills or to pay their rent,” Albuquerque said Oct. 20 during a press conference to announce what she and fellow U.N. Special Rapporteur Leilani Farha had learned while in Detroit.
“A woman whose water had been cut off explained that her teenage daughters had to wash themselves with a bottle of water during menstruation, and had to refrain from flushing the toilet to save water,” Albuquerque said.
From the woman who said she stopped cooking rice because of the amount of water it takes, to the parents who expressed fear the state would take custody of their children if it was discovered they lived in a home with no running water, Albuquerque and Farha heard testimony and, during a tour, saw firsthand the effects water shutoffs are having on Detroit’s poorest residents and their neighborhoods.
But what struck her most, Albuquerque said, is the sheer scope of the problem. Through September, according to the Detroit’s Department of Water and Sewerage, service has been cut to more than 27,000 households so far this year. Of that number, about 12,000 remain without water. READ MORE AT THE MICHIGAN CITIZEN