- Associated Press - Monday, May 14, 2018

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit residents are seeing their water bills drop as part of a city program that installs new toilets for free and covers plumbing repairs.

Susan Kulczyk, 60, had an ultra-low-flow toilet installed at no cost in her Detroit home last month, the Detroit Free Press reported . She’s part of the city’s Water Residential Assistance Program, which helps low-income residents pay water bills for up to two years.

Kulcyzk’s water bills have dropped from more than $200 a month to less than $70 with the new toilet. They’re expected to drop even further from more use, said Bryan Peckinpaugh, a spokesman for the Detroit Water and Sewage Department.

The free toilets are only offered in Detroit. But the rest of the program’s perks are provided to communities in Oakland and Macomb counties, as well as parts of Wayne County.

The program follows service shut-offs and protests after thousands of Detroit residents were behind on their water bills or weren’t paying them at all.

Utility collections are back on track, said Gary Brown, director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. The agency has raised its collection rate from 77 percent in 2016 to 92 percent currently, he said.

Brown noted that the program benefits all of southeast Michigan, not just Detroit. Less water running through Detroit household pipes and toilets means less sewage overflows contaminating Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River, he said.

“It’s overall a good move for the whole region for us to be installing these low-flow toilets,” Brown said. “Whenever we can take water out of the system, there’s that much less water we have to pump and treat with chemicals before we release it to the Great Lakes.”

About $1.6 million of the program’s assistance money designated for Detroit’s suburbs was transferred to the city last year. Not all communities need the help, particularly in affluent areas like Bloomfield Hills and Grosse Pointe, suburban water officials said.

Robert Daddow, an Oakland County deputy executive, said “the biggest user of this money is Detroit, and we have no objection to that.”


Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com

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