LANSING — State Representative Julie Plawecki (D-Dearborn Heights) joined with House and Senate colleagues today at a Capitol press conference to announce a bipartisan, bicameral bill package that would ensure access to safe, drinkable, affordable water, reform the shut-off process and guarantee that water is accessible for Michigan residents. Plawecki’s two bills in the package would establish that access to clean water is a human right; and require water providers to submit annual reports to the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) regarding water rates and how they were determined, along with information about shut-offs in the previous year.
“Water shut-offs can create health and safety hazards and can happen in any Michigan community,” said Plawecki. “The bills my colleagues and I are offering today will create an affordable, responsible way for residents and utilities to deal with unpaid water bills so that no Michigan resident has to go without water for long periods of time.”
Plawecki, along with state Representatives Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), LaTanya Garrett (D-Detroit) and Sheldon Neeley (D-Flint) announced their water quality and affordability package, which includes bills to:
- Establish water as a human right – HB 5101 (Plawecki)
- Increase transparency about water rates and shut-offs – HB 5093 (Plawecki)
- Ensure that water samples are collected using EPA procedures and prohibits the procedure of pre-flushing – HB 5094 (Neeley)
- Prohibit utilities from charging a customer for service during a period of time when the customer has not received a bill, has contacted the provider and has still not received a bill (Garrett)
- Institute shut-off protections by creating categories of individuals protected from shut-offs and providing for clearer notices about potential shutoffs and create a state water affordability plan – HB 5097 (Chang/ Sen. Bert Johnson)
- Decriminalize the reconnecting of water pipes to regain access to water – HB 5095 and 5096 (Chang and Garrett)
Detroit, Flint and Highland Park residents have all dealt with water accessibility, and in Flint’s case, water quality issues recently. Even with the financial assistance offered to Detroit residents, some are still behind on their payments. Flint residents put up with bad water, and then clearly unsafe water when a local doctor’s study found high blood lead levels in Flint children. Legislation was recently approved and signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder that, among other things, paid for Flint’s reconnection to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) until its new water system comes online. Highland Park is behind on money owed to DWSD, and has been erratically charging residents to try to recoup that money. Now the DWSD is threatening to start shutting off water to Highland Park residents.
“We cannot sit by and let senior citizens, families, and individuals go without access to clean water,” said Plawecki. “We can’t live without water, so it’s certainly appropriate to pass legislation that recognizes this by stating that access to clean water is a human right. Additionally, transparency on water rates and shut-offs provides a much needed protection for our residents. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass these bills and ensure that Michigan residents have access to affordable, clean water.”