Neda Simeonova is editorial director of Water & Wastes Digest. Simeonova can be reached at [email protected] or 847.391.1011.
In March 2014, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) announced it would shut off water to thousands of overdue water and sewer accounts.
DWSD distributed 46,000 shut-off notices with approximately 4,500 total shut-offs in May, according to a USA Today report.
Months after the initial announcement, protest against this controversial issue continue, attracting national attention.
According to DWSD, however, there has been significant misinformation about its practices.
At the end of June, DWSD announced that it is working closely with its customers who are delinquent in their payments to prevent avoidable water shut-offs. The department currently has more than 17,000 Detroit customers enrolled into a successful payment plan program that is designed to fit each customer’s financial situation and ability to pay.
Next month, the DWSD also plans to launch a new financial assistance program for the city’s indigent population.
And as far as the 4,500 customers who had their water shut off, within 24 hours, 60% of the affected customers paid their accounts in full and had their service immediately restored. Forty percent of the remaining customers had their service restored within 48 hours, according to DWSD.
When faced with a huge volume of delinquent accounts, utilities often are forced to take measures, which ultimately could cause significant controversy.
What is the best way for a utility to handle these controversial situations? E-mail us at [email protected] to share your opinion with WWD.