- In Focus
In Detroit, Water Crisis Symbolizes Decline, and Hope
As poor residents strain to pay bills, neighbors and activists step up.
DETROIT—Rochelle McCaskill was in her bathroom about to rinse the soap off her hands when the water stopped. Slowed by lupus and other ailments, she made her way to a bedroom window, peered out, and spotted a guy fiddling with her water valve.
"There must be a mistake," she yelled down.
McCaskill explained that she had just paid $80 on her $540.41 overdue bill, enough, she thought, to avoid a shutoff. The man wasn't interested in the details. He cranked off her water and marked the sidewalk by her valve with bright blue spray paint, a humiliation inflicted on delinquent customers that McCaskill likened to "a scarlet letter." Then he drove off in a truck with the red, white, and black logo