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Protests amid more Detroit water shutoffs

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DETROIT (WJBK) -  Protesters made their voices heard outside the Detroit Water Board building Thursday on Randolph Street, insisting the city is violating human rights by shutting off water service to delinquent customers. At least 50,000 shutoff notices have been sent out in recent months.

"I am here today because the level of shutoffs has increased tremendously, while at the the same time, the rate has gone up," says Rev. David Bullock of the Change Agent Consortium.

Vivian Dat was among the crowd. She says she's been without water since Friday. She owes $400.

"With the little check that I get from disability I pay my property taxes, I pay my light bill and I'm trying to pay my water but I never get a bill at the house," she says.

A woman who identified herself as Miss King had her water shut off Thursday morning.

"It was due July 1, so I get paid either the 25th or 26th of the month and so I had planned on paying it and I paid it this morning but it was too late," she says.

A United Nations panel issued a statement criticizing the city's actions, saying shutoffs should only take place if the city can prove residents have the ability to pay but are not paying, and where there is genuine inability to pay human rights forbids disconnections.

RELATED: Activists asking United Nations for help amid Detroit water shutoffs

"We've turned off churches, we've turned off all accounts that have fallen in that delinquency status where they're 60 days past due and greater than $150," says deputy director Darryl Latimer.

He says the city will be rolling out a program administered by THAW to help low-income residents starting in July. As for the shutoffs, he says the city has been doing this for years in an effort to collect unpaid bills.

The city says the water was shut off to at least 4,000 homes last month alone. They're urging anyone who is having difficulty paying their bills to come down to the Water and Sewerage Department and work out a plan.

"Our objective is for you not to be without water but if you have an affordability issue there is only one way we would know that - and you would have to let us know," says Latimer.

Last week, the City Council approved an 8.7 percent rate increase in part because of all the debt. United States Representative John Conyers has said he plans to seek federal help with Detroit's water crisis, but the shutoffs, protests and calls for help continue.
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