Group Claims Bias in Lawsuit Against Cleveland’s Water Department

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A civil rights group has sued Cleveland claiming the city’s water department discriminates against black customers by disproportionately shutting off service and placing liens on their property for unpaid bills.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has proposed the federal complaint filed Wednesday be certified as a class-action lawsuit. The NAACP says black customers are affected by shutoffs and water liens at a much higher rate than white customers and that some of those actions result from billing errors and illegitimate charges.

The Cleveland Water Department serves 1.5 million people in more than 70 northeast Ohio communities.