The outcry faded, but the situation hasn’t. Within a block of Coleman’s house on Fielding near Lyndon, at least three neighbors have endured shutoffs, including one who spent months walking up the street, twice a day, to fill buckets at a friend’s before service resumed in mid-November. Citywide, a third of all residential accounts in Detroit— 68,000 of 200,000 — are at least 60 days past due, city records show.
The water issue is coming to light as a special panel studying water affordability is expected to present its plan to the Detroit City Council in January. The group expects to consider recommendations — including lower prices for low-income residents — when it meets for the last time Tuesday. Help is available, said Gary Brown, director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Some 39,000 residents are on payment plans, and the city has nearly $1 million available in payment assistance. “If you come in and say you are having an issue, we can find ways to help people,” Brown said. “But you have to come in.” Coleman gets by using bottled water for drinking, much of which she gets from charity. She heats water for sponge baths and flushes the toilet only after bowel movements. Otherwise, she does without.