Dear Flint, Michigan residents: Pay for your poisoned water or lose your home

Dear Flint, Michigan residents: Pay for your poisoned water or lose your home

As if the people of Flint, Michigan haven’t already been though enough thanks to the incompetence of the EPA and their own elected leaders, this week’s news probably falls under the category of adding insult to injury. Thousands of residents, many of whom are still using bottled water for many of their needs, have received an unpleasant notice in the mail. If they don’t pay up their back dated water bills, not only will their taps be shut off but they may lose their homes. (NBC local coverage)

Thousands of people in Flint are at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure if they don’t pay up on their water bills. After recently putting out shuts off notices the city is now back to threatening tax liens on people’s homes.

“I got scared, for probably the first time since this all started this actually scared me,” said Melissa Mays, who is a mother and water activist who lives in Flint.

Mays received the notice in the mail Friday stating that she must pay nearly $900 by May 19 to avoid a lien being placed on her property.

The Mays Family is not alone. More than 8,000 people are also on the same notice. What gets them on this list is not paying a water bill for six months or more.

The people making it onto the naughty list and receiving these letters are selected because they haven’t paid a water bill in six months or more. But in parts of Flint the residents are still getting water out of their taps which generally meets federal guidelines for maximum lead and copper content, but it’s still really not safe. As recently as January there were officials telling them that they’re not out of the woods yet and it may be a year or more before they should stop using lead filters and bottled water.

The drinking water in Flint, Mich., is now in compliance with federal regulations on lead and copper content, officials said on Tuesday. But they cautioned that it could be a year or more before it is safe for residents to drink from their faucets, because lead-tainted pipes need to be replaced.

“We are not out of the woods yet,” Mayor Karen Weaver said in a statement. She called the results of water tests “encouraging” but said residents should continue to drink bottled water or use filters.

She said that the city was making progress toward its goal of removing an estimated 20,000 lead-tainted water pipes and that it hoped to replace 6,000 of them by the end of the year.

If that’s what they’re being told by not only environmental officials but their own mayor, how is it that they are being billed for the water coming out of the taps? Does this strike anyone else as a story straight out of some sort of dystopian science fiction film?

Here’s one more question to toss out. Obviously this story is getting a lot less national media coverage than it used to, but if anyone were paying attention at this point, who would the blame fall upon? I think they’ve run out of choices for blaming the Governor (also known as the only Republican in sight). These water bills and potential shut-off and foreclosure notices are coming out at the municipal level from their Democratic Mayor’s administration. And the original problem remains one which the Governor bore some responsibility for initially, but which was vastly compounded and worsened because of the secrecy and criminal negligence of the EPA under Barack Obama. Could that be why it’s no longer a subject fit for wall to wall coverage on CNN?

Best of luck to the people of Flint. You’re getting the raw end of the deal to be sure. I only hope you can find some new leadership that provides you with a fair deal and some real solutions.

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