As if it wasn’t enough to be drinker lead-contaminated water in the first place, a new report released Tuesday by Food & Water Watch found that Flint residents paid the highest rate for water than any of the other 500 public and private water providers they surveyed.
An average Flint family paid $864.32 a year for water in January 2015. This about $500 more than a typical family in any other part of the country paid to other utility companies. It is also more than twice as much as the going rate in Michigan, more than three times as much as people in Detroit were paying, seven times as much as people in Miami, and ten times more than Phoenix.
Mary Grant, the lead author of the report, stated that:
“People [in Flint] were paying the highest rates in the country for water that was toxic.”
“It’s an indictment of running water systems like a business instead of a public service.”
What’s more, Flint is host to a severely disadvantaged population. 41.5 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, with the median household income less than $25,000.
Grant stated that according to the United Nations, in order for water and sewer to be affordable it needs to be no more than three percent of household income. Water and sewer costs in Flint cost nearly seven percent of an average household’s income.
Unaffordable bills have caused many problems in Flint. Most of the problems come from the fact that people who are unable to pay their full bill and know that putting a smaller amount towards it will not save them from service interruption instead choose to pay nothing and use that money for other expenses. This causes less and less money going to the city and more time has to be spent on collection attempts.
A memo released in April of last year made several recommendations to help solve the rate crisis, but none of them were implemented.
A few months later a judge ordered that the extreme 35 percent rate increase on water needed to be gradually implemented. He also ordered a halt to shutoffs to bills under he elevated rate, but shut off notices continued even under the new higher than average rates.