Activists Call on UN to Aid Detroit's Water Crisis

"Children cannot bathe and parents cannot cook," a new report states.

Posted: 06/25/2014 12:43 PM EDT

A coalition of welfare rights groups and activists are appealing to the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights to help Detroiters whose water service has been shut off due to unpaid bills. The controversial move was announced in March to help the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department tackle its $5 billion debt.

“Sick people have been left without running water and working toilets,” states the report filed by the coalition this week. “People recovering from surgery cannot wash and change bandages. Children cannot bathe and parents cannot cook.”

According to the Detroit Free Press, nearly half of Detroit residents — more than 150,000 people — who use the utility are delinquent and, combined with commercial customers, owe a total of $118 million. The bankrupt city’s average monthly water bill is almost double the national average of $40. Last week, the Detroit City Council voted to raise water rates by an additional 8.7 percent.

“It would be more just and efficient for the DWSD to spend its resources collecting unpaid bills from commercial and industrial users than depriving households of basic services,” the report states.

The department rejected accusations of delinquent business entities receiving a special pass.

“There are no sacred cows. We aren’t discriminating in terms of individuals or businesses,” DWSD spokesman Bill Johnson reportedly said in an interview. “Last month we shut off about 3,600 accounts, both businesses and residential. Everybody is getting cut off who is $150 or 60 days in arrears. That is our policy and we’re ramping up our enforcement of that policy.”

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(Photo: J.D. Pooley/Getty Images)

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