The Detroit Water and Sewage Department announced Monday that it will halt its impending water shutoffs for 15 days to allow residents more time to show they cannot pay their bills.
The announcement occurred the same day 10 residents, along with several organizations, filed a lawsuit asking Detroit's U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes to restore service, the Detroit Free Press reports.
More than 7,500 customers had their water shut off by the city in April and May as part of the financially troubled city's crackdown on unpaid bills following a long period of lax enforcement.
“In case we have missed someone who has legitimate affordability problems, this will allow them to come to us to see if they can work out payments,” said DWSD spokesman Bill Johnson, who said that he was unaware of the lawsuit. “We’ve always maintained that what we were doing was a collection effort — not a shutoff effort.”
Residents and community activists claim the city is violating constitutional and contractual rights by ending water service for those who owe money.
“Water provided through public utilities is a necessity of modern life and continued access to it is a property right accorded due process protections,” read the lawsuit filed Monday.
On Friday, Kevyn Orr, the city's emergency manager, said that no one who could not afford water would have to go without it.
The department's director, Darryl Latimer, said the city is beginning outreach efforts to educate residents about financial assistance and payment options to those with a documented need.