In the year before the COVID-19 pandemic began, Detroit shutoff water at 3,000 homes in the city, according to the water department.
Now, the city is reaching out to all those homes disconnected — and potentially thousands more — to reconnect water on a $20-a-month payment plan, with zero cash down, in the face of widespread public closure due to the novel coronavirus.
But damage has already been done, says one expert on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson.
“People are already dealing with job loss so this is just compounding on other crises in their life and making everything harder.” — Elin Betanzo, water expert
And even after water is turned back on for the duration of the pandemic, there are consequences to repeated, long term shutoffs, posing quality and infrastructure issues to the utility.
Click on the player above to hear Elin Bentanzo, water infrastructure expert, discuss how COVID-19 has exacerbated the water shutoff problem.
Elin Betanzo is the founder of Safe Water Engineering.
Betanzo says having your water shut off is “no small thing.”
She says it means people can’t wash their hands, which is the direct order residents are getting from Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
“People are already dealing with job loss so this is just compounding on other crises in their life and making everything harder,” says Betanzo.
She explains that one of the big steps the water department has to do it to get in the house and make sure the water is connected.
“Every time you start the water, you start this science experiment in your pipes.” — Elin Betanzo, water expert
“If the plumbing on either side is deteriorated, it’s no gift to the family,” she says, adding that there’s also the issue of trust when allowing a stranger into your home, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Betanzo goes on to explain the risks of turning water off in a home for an extended amount of time.
“Every time you start the water, you start this science experiment in your pipes,” says Betanzo. She notes that most long term shutoffs will require on-site assistance with a plumber when the time comes to turn the water back on.