Surrounded by a frenzy of cameras, Detroit resident Rochelle McCaskill explained her predicament to a team of United Nations officials on Sunday: The numbers simply didn’t add up.
Out of her $672 monthly disability check, McCaskill spends $600 rent, she said, leaving her unable to pay the city’s water bills, which have skyrocketed to more than twice the national average.
“They need a category for those of us who cannot pay,” said McCaskill, whose water was shut off this summer as part of a wave of disconnections that, block by block, have left thousands of city residents without running water.
The city turned off McCaskill’s water despite the fact that she had been paying down her $540.10 water bill in increments and that she suffers from MRSA, a contagious infection that the NIH considers a “serious public health concern” and requires frequent bathing.
“It makes you feel like a failure in your own home,” she said, as she described washing and brushing her teeth with buckets of water delivered by the community group We the People of Detroit, part of the People’s Water Board Coalition.
McCaskill was one of dozens of residents, teachers, water department employees and parents who testified to two U.N. officials, who expressed concern that the shutoffs threatened residents’ human right to water and, in a city where the population is more than 80 percent African-American, could constitute discrimination under international law.