Legislators Listen to Detroit, Highland Park, Flint Residents on Water Issues

Residents explain hardship caused by bad water, high water bills
Wednesday, June 3, 2015

LANSING – State Representative Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) and colleagues today hosted 75 attendees at a water affordability and safety hearing at the state Capitol to hear from residents and community organizations about the water issues affecting their communities. Chang hosted the hearing along with Reps. Sheldon Neeley (D-Flint) and LaTanya Garrett (D-Detroit). Other legislators attending were Reps. Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills), Julie Plawecki (D-Dearborn Heights), Henry Yanez (D-Sterling Heights), Senator Jim Ananich (D-Flint) and Reps. Edward Canfield (R-Sebewaing) and Martin Howrylak (R-Troy).

“Today my colleagues and I heard testimony from residents of Detroit, Flint and Highland Park about the Michigan water crisis,” said Chang. “Thousands of shut-offs in Detroit and the water quality issues in Flint have led to serious public health concerns for our most vulnerable residents. This hearing was not only an important step to raise awareness about water affordability and quality issues, but also an opportunity to move toward legislative action regarding the human right to safe, clean and affordable water, shut-off protections, and transparency.”

Since January 2013, more than 53,000 Detroit residents have had their water and sewerage service terminated. Around 15,000 homes have had this service restored. There is financial assistance available, but many on this assistance are still behind on their payments. In April 2014, Flint switched from the Detroit water system to its own system that draws water from the Flint River. Since then, residents have put up with water that tastes and smells strange, high E-coli levels that forced boil water advisories, skin rashes and hair loss. Flint residents have also faced issues relating to Total Trihalomethane monitoring and acceptable levels for safe consumption.

“What we know from the groundwork of community organizing performed by nonprofit organizations is that human pain and suffering has occurred and continues to occur in Detroit,” said Alice Jennings Esq., of Edwards & Jennings PC of Detroit. “Detroit Water and Sewerage Department service increases and ‘payment plans,’ which are not based on affordability, are not sustainable and the track record in 2014 and 2015 is failure. Not having water service immediately makes a home uninhabitable under Detroit ordinances. Sanitation risks are magnified where no water sanitation is available in the home.”

“We need to ensure that our communities have safe, drinkable and affordable water,” said Chang. “People going without water or not being able to drink what comes out of the tap is unthinkable. My colleagues and I are committed to sharing the stories we heard today with other legislators and working on ways to ensure that what’s happened to these communities never happens again anywhere in Michigan.”