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Detroit Water Officials Offer Assistance As Thousands More Shutoffs Loom

DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - Detroit regional water officials say they are working with customers with past-due bills as service shutoffs loom.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department announced Tuesday it's holding a Water Assistance Fair on Saturday, April 30. It aims to help customers who are delinquent to establish payment plans to prevent shutoffs. The department says shutoffs start Sunday for residential customers without plans.

Among the options for those who qualify is the Water Residential Assistance Program. It provides $1,000 per year in financial assistance for low-income residents having trouble paying for water.

The fair happens at the department's east-side location on McNichols.

Detroit Water and Sewerage Director Gary Brown says roughly 30,000 commercial and residential customers are on payments plans and about 100,008 pay on time. About 23,000 have defaulted and risk shutoffs; while the average person behind on his or her water bill owes about $660.

Brown said they're continuing to deal with a problem of landlords being stuck with bills after tenants leave without paying.

To prevent this in the future, Brown said, they have a new plan in place.

"As new customers come in, we're taking their social security numbers and starting the accounts," Brown said. "It's going to take some time before we get through all of the 200,000 customers; so we're starting with the new accounts. As they're opened, we'll attach social security numbers to them and give a person their own account."

The department faced protests in 2014 following shutoffs of delinquent accounts.

Detroit's water system serves about 700,000 city residents and 4 million people regionally.

TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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