Detroit: surviving without running water has become a way of life

Photo: Southwest Detroit resident Mattie McCorkle explains how she bought a home for $3,000 that came with a sizable water bill. (Bridge photo by Joel Kurth)

DETROIT – On her worst days, Mattie McCorkle admits, she feels “less than a person.”

Once or twice a week, the Detroit mother of three collects her loose change and buckets from her bathtub. She drives to a carwash and fills her buckets.

This is how she’s collected water to bathe herself and her three children since the City of Detroit shut the taps to her home for nonpayment in June.

“You never get used to it. It’s embarrassing. Here I am, 40 years old, filling buckets to get by,” said McCorkle, a supermarket cashier.

“It wears me out.”

Detroit’s aggressive water shutoff campaign has received international attention since it began in 2014, but until now, it was unknown how many people continue to live without service long after disconnections.

For years, city officials said the vast majority of shut off customers have water running again within 48 hours when they are put on payment plans.

Now, new city records obtained by Bridge Magazine show occupants of least 1,500 homes – and perhaps as many as 2,715 – still remain without water after disconnections this year.

That’s at least 1 in 7 of the city’s 11,422 shutoffs so far this year. More than 900 of those occupied homes have been without water at least three months.

For the first time this year, the city’s Department of Water and Sewerage is tracking the number of occupied homes that aren’t reconnected, following a five-year collections campaign that has shut the taps to more than 112,000 homes.

That’s more than all the single-family homes in Atlanta, Georgia.

“This is a disgrace before […]

More about Detroit’s water supplies:

At some Detroit schools, toxins in water reached excessive levels

Detroit schools shutting off drinking water because of lead, copper

Making Us All Sicker: Detroit Water Shut-Offs May Well Have Caused Irreparable Damage

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Detroit: surviving without running water has become a way of life
Detroit's water shutoff campaign has received attention since 2014, but until now none knew how many people live without water _long_ after disconnection.
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