By Sara Jerome
Flint residents are outraged that the city continues to crack down on unpaid water bills even though residents still face health risks from lead contamination.
“Because of the continuing issues with aging pipes, thousands of Flint residents are still at risk from high lead levels,” The New York Times reported.
Yet under a new city policy, failure to pay water bills could now lead to home foreclosures.
“Thousands of Flint, MI, residents have been warned that they could lose their homes if they don’t pay outstanding water bills — even as the city has just begun replacing lead-tainted pipes after a contamination crisis linked to a dozen deaths,” The Washington Post recently reported.
Over 8,000 residents were sent warning letters last month as the city tries to collect $5.8 million in unpaid water and sewer bills. In February, Michigan withdrew the water-bill assistance it had provided Flint residents after the lead contamination crisis came to light three years ago, the Detroit Free Press reported.
The letters spelled out how failure to pay water bills could lead to home foreclosures.
“If homeowners do not pay by May 19, property liens are transferred to tax bills, which begins a process that can end with residents losing their homes unless they pay their outstanding bills before March 2018,” The New York Times reported.
In a statement, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver acknowledged local outrage by noting that even she does not see this as a good policy.
"I must say, I agree with those who have spoken out against this process. I have met with our Interim City Attorney and Finance Director and they say the city is obligated by local ordinance to follow this procedure, and we must follow the law,” she wrote.
“As the Mayor of Flint and as a Flint resident, I understand the concerns that have been raised and I am working to see if any changes or something can be done to help those affected by this, especially given the extraordinary circumstances we have endured due to the water crisis," she continued.
To read more about how utilities collect bills visit Water Online’s Funding Solutions Center.
Image credit: "Sign Of The Times - Foreclosure," jeff turner © 2008, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/