The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is mounting a campaign to shut off service to as many as 3,000 delinquent customers each week after reporting that more than half of the city's customers are 60 days-plus late on payments.

There are 323,900 water and sewerage accounts in Detroit, a number that includes businesses, schools and commercial buildings, according to Darryl Latimer, the department's deputy director. Nearly 165,000 are overdue, for a total of $175 million as of March 6.

Delinquencies for the city's 296,115 residential accounts total $91.7 million.

According to city officials, people commonly start paying when they see the department cutting off water to neighbors. While shutoffs are stopped during the winter because of complications related to freezing temperatures and damaged pipes, contractors are now in place to target customers more than two months behind or who owe at least $150. The average monthly bill is $75.

Up to 20 contractor crews will handle the shutoffs.

The department wants to show that there are consequences for not paying water bills, Latimer told The Detroit News. Latimer said often the utility bill is simply the last bill people choose to pay rather than inability to pay.

Department officials have said the initiative is unrelated to Detroit’s bankruptcy restructuring and is simply a renewed effort to fix a longstanding problem.

Next week, the department will start sending mailings to thousands of customers warning if their overdue water balances aren’t paid, the bill would be considered a property tax lien and could result in foreclosure.

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