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Michigan’s Water Woes Go Far Beyond Detroit

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Spring is in the air, which means that the snow is melting, birds are singing, and the Detroit Water Department is gearing up to send out shut off warnings — about 800 of them, in fact.

According to CBS News Detroit, Deputy Director Darryl Latimer says that the projected number of shut offs is actually not as bad as it was at this time last year. The department didn’t send notices last year, but chose to do so this year in an effort to offer better service. The notices will be sent mid- to late-April to residential customers with delinquent accounts.

Last year, nearly half of Detroit’s residential water accounts were delinquent — about 150,000 out of 323,900. The shut offs were in such high numbers by summer 2014 that it caught the attention of the United Nations and also sparked protests in the city.

What’s alarming about 2015 is that though there are fewer slated shut offs, residents may have a harder time paying their delinquent bills. The Detroit utility board just approved tax hikes on water and sewer services last month — a 3.4% increase for water and a 16.7% increase for sewer.

Sewer systems in Detroit have seen their fair share of troubles as well — like last year’s 10 billion gallons of sewage overflow and deteriorating sewer systems in residential areas, many of which need replacing. Experts say that pipe bursting, a form of trenchless sewer line repair, can come with warranties that last up to 50 years.

Other infrastructures in Michigan that deliver water and sewer services to customers are also in trouble.

After Flint left the Detroit water system last year, the city began using a backup water system which was unfamiliar and uses a new method of filtering the water. This has resulted in the delivery of caustic, foul-smelling, undrinkable water to Flint homes. While the Flint system affects homeowners, the Detroit system is overburdened by lack of payment.

As of now, there’s no clear solution to either problem.

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