Property owners in Detroit get hit with huge water bills

- A Detroit business owner says a notification from the city about an increase in his water bill seems unfair.

“Well last week they said the rain water runoff charge is going to be $750 per acre which will increase our bill about $5,000 per month,” said business owner Louis Ray. “It’s a 700% increase which will total about $60,000 a year.”

Louis Ray is not alone. The city recently discovered 22,000 parcels of property that were never charged for water drainage. That will change starting in October.

“Unfortunately all the other customers have been paying for those that haven't been paying. All we're trying to do now is make sure we have a fair and equitable system for everyone,” said Palencia Mobley of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

The city was able to determine who wasn't being billed based on an aerial survey.

“It allows us to determine exactly how much hard surface is on a parcel,” said Mobley. “We align that information with the parcel in the billing system and we can determine if someone has received a bill."

City officials say they want to work with customers by providing payment plans and options to reduce their bill through green infrastructure practices. But Ray, who moved his business to Detroit to take part in its resurgence says, is not that simple.

“Now we have to look at other options, one of them being moving. The other is to stop emitting water from the city of Detroit by putting retention ponds. That again would increase my cost of doing business in the city.”

As customers try to make sense of their bills, city officials say the money recovered will be put to good use.

“It goes to pay for combined sewer overflow facilities, which are pollution control facilities that minimize untreated sewerage,” said Mobley.

But some question why more notice wasn't provided.

“I can't provide a response about whether it was fair that they were only given 30 days,” said Mobley. “The bills won’t begin until some point in October.”

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