UNITED NATIONS, June 25 (UPI) -- The policy of Detroit, Mich., of shutting off water services from households that do not pay their water bills is a human rights violation, United Nations specialists said Wednesday.
They commented on disconnections -- of 3,000 households per week in June -- by the Detroit Water and Sewage Department. Homes with bills unpaid for two consecutive months are subject to disconnection, and about 30,000 households are expected to go without water in coming months.
"Disconnection of water services because of failure to pay due to lack of means constitutes a violation of the human right to water and other international human rights," a U.N. statement said, noting Detroit has high poverty, unemployment and water rates.
"When there is genuine inability to pay, human rights simply forbids disconnections," said Catarina de Albuquerque, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the human right to water and sanitation.
Leilani Farha, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, said homes without water access are regarded as inadequate, adding, "If these water disconnections disproportionately affect African-Americans they may be discriminatory, in violation of treaties the United States has ratified."