News Feature | February 14, 2017

As Subsidies End, Flint Chants ‘We Don't Pay For Poison Water'

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

flint reg new.jpg

Michigan is withdrawing the water-bill assistance it has provided Flint residents since the lead contamination crisis came to light three years ago.

“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,” according to a statement from the city of Flint.

The letter from Richard Baird, senior advisor to the governor, noted that the latest water quality tests in Flint show the city is in compliance with the federal Lead and Copper Rule. The end of water subsidies in Flint is “due to these new levels being achieved,” the letter said.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said she has requested a meeting with the governor on this issue.

“I want the people of Flint to know we are still fighting for what is right,” Weaver said in a statement. “I am disappointed by the announcement from the governor’s office especially after we were told the credits would last at least until March 31. The lack of consideration there seems to be for the residents is also concerning because we know people need time to prepare for changes like the credits no longer being provided.”

Flint residents and community organizers were outraged by the decision, the Detroit Free Press reported:

Vehement objections followed quickly from community leaders in Flint, as well as from critics of the state's role in the water crisis including prominent Democratic Party politicians. All said the cutoff of subsidies was premature, and some said it was an example of Snyder trying to downplay the seriousness of the crisis.

Residents protested at city hall, chanting “we don’t pay for poison water,” according to Michigan Radio. The prospect of water shutoffs for delinquent ratepayers is looming over Flint, the report said.

“Under pressure from the state, the city started cracking down on commercial water customers who were either not paying or were seriously delinquent in paying their water bills. This year, attention is shifting to residential customers although so far, the city has not starting shutting off service to residential customers,” Michigan Radio reported.

Image caption, per Flickr: “City of Flint, MI, water, filter distribution, and sample turn-in, on Wednesday, October 5, 2016. While U.S. Department of Agriculture partners may have water available for residents, the responsibility here has been taken on by the city of Flint, with ‘Water Pickup’ locations in each of its wards, such as this one in Ward 8. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.”

Image credit: "20161005-FNS-LSC-0965," U.S. Department of Agriculture © 2016, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/