Drainage fee lawsuit filed against Detroit Water Department by residents

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A lawsuit is filed against the Detroit Water Department challenging controversial drainage fees. Residents say the only thing they're actually draining -- are their bank accounts.

Storm water is water from rain and when it falls it's got to go somewhere. And if it goes into the city's drainage system, the city says the landowner should pay for it.

FOX 2: "Don't you think the city should charge something for this drainage water?"

"They should, but nationally we consider storm water runoff something that's for the public's good in general," said Lisa Carver, attorney suing Detroit. "Typically that's something paid for by the municipality, by the city's general fund, it is not something paid for by the tax on the individual real property owner."

That's why the lawsuit was filed against the city and the water and sewage department is saying that the amount of the drainage fee is arbitrary and some properties can't determine exactly how much water, if any, actually gets into the city system. 

But every landowner is charged a fee.

Jayne Carver is suing the city. She says she pays an extra $26 a month for a drainage fee on top of the $80 a month water bill, which is not fair.

"People don't even know about this," Carver said. "They don't actually pinpoint or measure how much usage I'm getting from the fee."

The attorney says the public should vote on whether they want a drainage fee.

"Instead of just unilaterally imposing a fee for which many residents can't afford to pay," Lisa Carver said.

"It seems preposterous to me, to be able to tax someone for what mother earth is producing from the sky," said DeWon Tipton, resident. "That's like putting a Tax on God."

"Amen," Lisa Carver said.

In a statement, the city says that "Customers have been charged for drainage as part of their water and sewer bill.  Every Detroiter shares the benefits of clean waterways and the responsibility of managing drainage."

"They might not even notice they are getting a fee charged," said Jayne Carver. "Some don't even know about it and they're getting the water shut off because they can't afford it. Unfair."