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Barlow denounces water shutoffs in Detroit as a “terrible violation of the human right to water”

The Council of Canadians in Detroit in solidarity with the right to water struggle there, July 2014.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow says the water shutoffs that started in Detroit today are a “terrible violation of the human right to water!”

The Detroit News reports this hour, “The city’s water department on Wednesday began shutting off water to residential customers with delinquent accounts and about 18,000 households are currently at risk.”

The Detroit Free Press adds, “[A study by the] Henry Ford Health System’s Global Health Initiative and the We the People of Detroit Community Research Collective [found that] people living on blocks where there were water shut offs for past-due bills were more than 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with a water-associated illness than those on blocks with no shut offs. The study also shows that common water-associated illnesses are skin and soft-tissue infections and gastrointestinal infections.”

Monica Lewis-Patrick, who is with We the People of Detroit, argues an income-based plan should be created for customers.

She says, “My phone was ringing off the hook yesterday. I was being reached out to retirees from the city who are concerned about the health impact study we just did with the Henry Ford Health System that says the entire city is getting sicker because of water associated illnesses. They’re using water that is not purified or safe. Either way, it’s due to the fact that they can’t afford water and they’re having to make other arrangements and that is creating a health crisis for the entire city of Detroit. To have the administration so cavalier in cutting off the water, it is frightening. It’s alarming.”

And Sylvia Orduno, an organizer with the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, says, “We shouldn’t be thinking this is acceptable in our community. It’s not OK for Detroit to keep shutting off thousands of people every year, multiple times a year. There are real people behind these numbers.”

Her organization is calling for the implementation of an affordability plan.

The Peoples Water Board Coalition also called for an end to water shutoffs.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow will be highlighting this violation of the human right to water when she speaks in nearby Flint in June.

She says, “The daily cut-offs of water in Detroit, water needed for life and dignity, are an affront to the notion that we have advanced very far in our understanding of human rights or in its practice. We all stand guilty if we do not shout out against this terrible injustice on our continent.”

Barlow publicly denounced the water shutoffs when they first began happening in Detroit in May 2014.