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UN Officials Criticize Detroit Water Shutoffs

  • VOA News

FILE - People stand outside Detroit City Hall, protesting thousands of residential water-service shutoffs by Detroit's water department, during a rally in Detroit, Thursday, July 24, 2014.

FILE - People stand outside Detroit City Hall, protesting thousands of residential water-service shutoffs by Detroit's water department, during a rally in Detroit, Thursday, July 24, 2014.

United Nations human rights officials have called on Detroit to restore water service to poor customers with overdue bills.

Catarina de Albuquerque and Leilani Farha on Monday ended their three-day tour of the city during which they met with affected residents, civil rights activists and local officials.

The U.N. experts said the shutoffs disproportionately impact the city's low-income and black population and unfairly forces residences to choose between paying for housing or paying for water service.

Detroit has turned off water to more than 27,000 people this year.

Under the city's water policy, customers more than 60 days late in payment on their water bills run the risk of having their water service shut off as the city attempts to reduce the utility's millions of dollars in debt.

In July 2013 Detroit became the largest American city to declare bankruptcy, citing billions of dollars in debt.

A judge is expected to rule on the city's bankruptcy exit plan in early November.

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