Backlash grows at Detroit Water Dept's drainage fee

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"Why should I have to pay for what Mother Nature brings down on us," said Bill Wheeler.

Wheeler, the manager of a Detroit's Inspiration Salon is in disbelief that he has to pay a monthly drainage fee.

"We own the lot to building and now they're telling us to pay over $100 for a drainage fee," Wheeler said. 

On Friday, city leaders held an information session to erase confusion that they believe has led to backlash over the drainage fee

Many business owners and churches are upset over the fee which is a drainage charge that recovers the cost for treating wet weather flows at the wastewater treatment plant. 

"Every user has to be charged a cost of service," said Palencia Mobley. 

Mobley is the Deputy Director and Chief Engineer for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, says despite what many may think the drainage fee is not new.

"For a long time the charge was imbedded in sanitary sewage charge," she said. "It wasn't pulled out as separate line item."

But activists like Demeeko Williams who fights to keep water bills affordable, is leading an effort to fight the drainage fee.

"DWSD's rain tax is nothing more than a scam to collect money for their infrastructure," he said. 

But Mobley says the fee is not a money grab.

"The charge is used to pay for investments that have been made to clean up the Detroit and Rouge rivers

Officials say your payment fee is based on a simple formula.

"If a customer has one acre of impervious surface, then we will multiple that by $598.00 which is the projected rate. They would pay $598 a month. 

But Williams says many can't afford to pay their bills and he wants the drainage fee to go away.

"They are going to run businesses out of the city," he said. "They are already getting pushed out."