Judge rules no constitutional right to free water in Detroit bankruptcy case

Attorney: "We will be looking at an appeal. We believe there is a right to water."

By JC Sevcik

DETROIT, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- The judge hearing Detroit's bankruptcy case ruled Monday he has no authority to stop the Detroit Water and Sewage Department shutting off residential water services.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes declared there is no constitutional right to water and ordering a moratorium on shut-offs would negatively impact the utility company's revenue.


"Chapter 9 strictly limits the courts' power in a bankruptcy case," Rhodes said.

The water shut-offs in Detroit have drawn international attention, with the U.N. even weighing in on the crisis.

Controversy arose recently when advocates including Moratorium Now, the Peoples Water Board, and the National Action Network criticized the city for continuing to service delinquent corporate accounts while shutting off water to residential homes, sparking a debate on whether there is a constitutional right to water, but Rhodes ruled the city has a right to handle business and residential accounts differently, and that citizens are not entitled to water under the constitution.

"We will be looking at an appeal," said Alice Jennings, an attorney representing the 10 residents fighting water shut-offs. "We believe there is a right to water and there is a right to affordable water."


"There is no such right or law," Rhodes wrote in his ruling, calling the city's strict shut-off campaign begun this spring in an effort to force residents to pay outstanding bills a "bold, commendable and necessarily aggressive plan."

So far, around 24,000 city water accounts have been shut off this year.

With July's month-long moratorium on shut-offs over, city workers have been shutting off up to 400 accounts a day in the impoverished city since August, according to DWSD.

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