For Immediate Release
Mitch Jones, mjones(at)fwwatch(dot)org, 410-394-7651 or 443-418-6454
WASHINGTON - Baltimore’s Department of Public Works could deny 25,000 households, or approximately 75,000 people, their human right to water. The city must stop residential shutoffs and turn the water back on to avoid a human rights and public health disaster.
“Baltimore is repeating Detroit’s mistakes by denying thousands of households access to essential water and sanitation services. Last year, Detroit’s aggressive water shutoff program prompted widespread protest, international media scrutiny and condemnation by the United Nations.
“Baltimore should not cut off service to households who cannot afford to pay the city’s ever-growing water rates. It is an insult to human dignity and would violate their basic human right to water. Disconnecting service to thousands of homes also poses a very real public health threat. Without water service, people cannot flush their toilets or wash their hands. Lack of adequate sanitation can cause diseases to spread, making people sick. The elderly, children and people with diabetes and other illnesses would be especially vulnerable. Extensive water shutoffs would be a public health crisis in the making.
“It is not even clear whether all the bills for those targeted for shut-off are accurate, given Baltimore’s history of over-billing—one of the reasons behind the city’s effort to install smart meters.
“As water and sewer bills increase, existing low-income assistance programs are failing to meet the growing need. The city should target delinquent businesses first, while expanding its assistance to low-income residents and implement a comprehensive, income-based water affordability program. An income-based approach to water billing is the most equitable option. The city must act to ensure universal access to safe and affordable water service.”
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