February 17, 2016; CNN
Flint residents paid a high price for being poisoned last year, on so many levels. As our readers, and indeed the whole country, are aware, the people of Flint, Michigan, have been exposed to high levels of lead in their water as a result of decisions made to cut costs in sourcing the water. Now, the Food and Water Watch Group reports that through the middle of 2015, Flint residents paid more for water than the residents of any other city in a survey of the nation’s 500 largest community water providers.
Flint’s residents paid $864.32 yearly for 60,000 gallons of water from the publicly owned system, almost three times national average of $316.20. Bellevue, Washington, is a close second, with residents paying an average annual bill of $855.25.
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The astronomical water rates in Flint were ordered rolled back by 35 percent in August 2015 as the result of a court ruling, and an additional monthly service charge was also ended.
Anna Heaton, a spokeswoman for the governor, is not surprised by the findings: “The Flint City Council originally voted to move away from Detroit Water and Sewerage Department in large part because water rates for residents were unaffordable. Therefore, the data in the report is not surprising.”
Meanwhile, a lawsuit has been filed in U.S. District Court this week seeking in excess of $150 million in refunds and compensation for damages, and a bill that would appropriate $30 million to pay the water bills for Flint residents this year is making its way through the Michigan legislature. It would not cover the entirety of the charges for the foul and undrinkable water, but 65 percent for residential customers and 20 percent for businesses. State Treasurer Nick Khouri says that five thousand of the 29,000 residential water customers in Flint are delinquent on their bills.
This situation continues to be one of the more frustrating exhibitions of unaccountable government we have witnessed.—Ruth McCambridge