Whitmer again declines to end Detroit water shutoffs; experts call bull

February 28, 2020, 8:06 AM

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration has again rejected a request to declare a state of emergency and put a moratorium on water shutoffs for Detroit's poor, raising doubts about whether city council will have success as it prepares to make a similar ask.

The state last Friday doubled down on its September denial of a request by the American Civil Liberties Union, Bridge Magazine reports. Officials with the Whitmer administration previously argued that while “there are significant challenges faced by residents whose water has been shut off, those challenges do not rise to the level of an imminent danger” because data don't indicate a “causal association between water shutoffs and water-borne disease.”

In interviews with Bridge, experts called bull:

  • Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician whose research into a rise in lead levels in children helped uncover the Flint water crisis: “It’s a bit ridiculous to even have such a conversation. Water is a medical and public health necessity. The fact that we have to wait to see the deleterious outcomes is backwards and antiprevention and anti-common sense and antiscience. If Flint taught us anything, it’s the need to focus on prevention and not wait until we can prove harm.” 

  • Nancy Love, a University of Michigan engineering professor who led research into water filters in Flint: It’s “absurd to argue there would be no impact” on health. “There’s a plethora of literature out there that already makes the point about water and sanitation.”

Nearly 20,000 Detroit households see their water cut each year, with the average service disruption lasting about a month, data analyzed by Bridge has found.

City council was to take up a resolution urging state action as early as Tuesday.

Whitmer and the city of Detroit have both said they support the expansion of an assistance program to help residents behind on their water bills. But there are hurdles for obtaining assistance and advocates have called for water rates to be set based on what people can pay.

Read more:  Bridge Magazine

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