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Welfare rights group backs UN criticism over Detroit water shutoffs

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The United Nations says recent water shutoffs at the homes of poor Detroiters are a violation of international human rights.

That came after a letter was sent this week to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The letter came from a coalition of welfare rights groups. They accuse Detroit's water department of putting poor people at risk with mass shutoffs.

Back in March, the city began to shut off water service to more than 150,000 delinquent customers who collectively owed more than $118 million.

One of the groups appealing to the United Nations is the Blue Planet Project, based in Ottawa, Ontario. We were joined today by its founder Maude Barlow.

“The scope really is stunning. I haven’t seen anything like this in any so-called first world country anywhere in the world,” said Barlow.

The turnoff campaign targets customers, both residential and commercial, who are more than 60 days late on their bills and who owe at least $150. And they're turning 3,000 customers a week.

“We’ve heard stories of people having their water turned off for weeks, and sometimes months," Barlow said. "We’ve heard that it’s very difficult to get your water turned on.”

The water department says service to 4,500 customers was cut last month, but more than half then paid up.

*Listen to full interview above.  

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