This latest round of water shutoffs for Flint is unbelievable. Mere months after people across the country rallied to support Flint’s residents, who were paying high rates for lead-contaminated water, the city intends to start water shut-offs — again.
A few reasons why this is the last thing long-suffering Flint residents need:
- The recent lead poisoning scandal: after months of complaints by residents, testing revealed that child blood-lead levels had risen (and in some areas doubled) after the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality allowed the city to use river water for more than 17 months without treating it to make it less corrosive. This includes a school with toxic water registering six times the federal limit of lead.
- Not only is this contaminated water going to have negative, lifelong effects on Flint children, but new documents show that Flint filed false reports about testing for lead in their water – potentially delaying efforts to resolve this public health emergency.
- In 2011, the City of Flint illegally raised rates for water & sewage by 35%. They weren’t penalized for this until the summer of 2015, when a judge ordered the city to cut the rates by 35% and stop cutting off water for those struggling to pay under the illegally created structure.
- After the 2011 hikes, Flint’s rates were unaffordable – especially for people living in Flint, where the median income is less than $25,000. Households were paying nearly $1,800 a year for the inflated costs of these necessary services, 7.2% of the median income, which is more than double the UN’s water & sanitation affordability threshold of 3% – an outrageous level of price gouging for a resource that’s a human right.
These new shutoffs could impact 60% of Flint water customers who are still behind on their bills. This is yet another hurdle that seems ludicrous given that the city residents have suffered illegal rates and poisoned water for years.
The judge’s decision to reverse the rate hikes helps make the water service more accessible for residents, and switching away from Flint River water is a good step towards making sure the water is safe. But if the shutoffs start again, residents will once again be struggling to gain the most basic human right: the right to clean water and sanitation.