By Amy Lukau
The people of Flint Michigan are being short changed yet again. It was announced February 9, 2017 that state funding subsidies which helped Flint’s residents pay their water bills caused by the infamous ‘The Flint Water Crisis’ would end February 28, 2017.
In April 2014, water in Flint became contaminated when the city switched its supply source and treatment while under the authority of a state appointed emergency manager.
In Michigan, emergency financial mangers answer only to the governor, and are given the authority to make sweeping decisions to turn around financially struggling cities and school districts according to Detroit Free Press.
Switching the water supply was meant as a cost cutting measure after the state of Michigan took over Flint’s finances when an audit projected a $25 million deficit. The switch resulted in a significant increase in lead levels in the water supply.
Without state funded subsidies, the city of Flint will not have enough money to upgrade its water-system infrastructure according to Melissa May, an organizer with Flint Rising, a water activist coalition.
“A senior advisor to Governor Rick Snyder has sent Flint’s Interim Chief Financial Officer, David Sabuda, a letter to inform him the credits currently being applied to the water portion of Flint utility customers’ accounts will no longer be provided after February 28, 2017,” Moore wrote. “State officials note the latest 6-month cycle of water testing that had results below the federal action level for the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR).”
Moore also said after this month the state will no longer provide funding for Flint’s connection to the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), which amounts to about $1.2 million a month.
Flint residents paid the highest water rates in America, even as their water was tainted with lead, according to a national study released in February 2016 by the public interest group Food and Water Watch.
A survey of the 500 largest water systems in the country, conducted last year, found that on average, Flint residents paid about $864 a year for water service, nearly double the national average and about 3½ times as much as Detroiters pay.
No funding subsidies also means less cash available to replace residents’ antiquated lead and galvanized-iron service lines, the pipes that connect from city water mains to the plumbing in older houses and which tests have shown can introduce lead particles into a household’s water, May said. So far, the city has replaced about 700 of the lines, but an additional 20,000 remain to be replaced, May went on to say.
This decision made by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is an example of callous indifference toward residents of Flint.
The independent panel put together by Gov. Snyder when the crisis drew national attention stated, “Flint residents, who are majority black or African-American and among the most impoverished of any metropolitan area in the United States, did not enjoy the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards as that provided to other communities,” the report concluded.
And as Laura Sulivan, 54, a city resident and water activist said “The situation we’re in now — all the costs of rebuilding the system, all the costs of health care for people hurt by this — is entirely due to Gov. Snyder appointing these emergency managers who approved sending Flint River water through the city water system.”
“The river water was haphazardly treated prior to distribution, a failure that has been blamed for the leaching of lead particles from inside the city’s aging pipes, allowing lead contamination to poison those who consumed the water,” she added.
According to Snyder the crisis represented a collective failure of local, state and federal governments. So why are the residents of Flint financially responsible for a problem they did not create?