Residents of Flint, Mich. say they are still being charged up to $200 a month by the city for their water, which is so contaminated with lead that the US Environmental Protection Agency has labeled it “toxic waste.”
Last month it was revealed that the drinking water in Flint was poisoned with lead.
The city switched its water supply and treatment plant in 2014 as a cost saving measure, but the new water supply, the Flint river, is so corrosive it eroded the lead pipes carrying the water that residents were drinking.
Lead can cause irreversible long-term cognitive impairment and is especially dangerous to young children, whose brains are still developing, and the unborn children of pregnant mothers.
Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality has been accused of ignoring the problem for months as people came forward with complaints about the brown water, which reportedly caused residents’ hair to fall out and gave them skin rashes and other health problems.
Ten people have also died from Legionnaire’s disease, a pneumonia-like condition, out of a total of 87 people who were sickened since the water supply was switched.
Despite the ongoing crisis, which prompted President Obama to declare a federal state of emergency in Flint this weekend, residents say they are still receiving water bills from the city.
“I noticed in the middle of July 2014 we were getting $150 water bills,” Tyrone Wooten told Mic.
That was a year before a team of researchers from Virginia Tech tested the water and discovered its extremely high lead content.
“We’ve been paying for it for so long,” he continued, “Sometimes it’s like, ‘Don’t flush the toilets sometimes; we don’t know how much that costs.”
Mr. Wooten said his water bill is usually between $125 and $150 each month. Other residents told Mic their water bill were slightly less while some families said they pay up to $200.
But due to the contamination, Flint residents are only using the water for washing and flushing the toilet.
The city switched back to its old water supply, Lake Huron, and treatment facility in 2015, but the damage has already been done. The lead pipes carrying the water are so corroded that the liquid flowing from residents taps and faucets is brown.
“It’s a fear of turning on your faucet water, that don’t make no sense,” Tekera Boyd told Mic. “I refuse to put it in my mouth. My son filters the water, puts it in the microwave, and my grandson takes his bath with it. We shouldn’t have to go through all that.”
The National Guard and now the EPA and FEMA are helping with damage control, handing out bottled water, filters and lead testing kits to residents, but constituents are still outraged that they are being charged for the water, and that their elected officials seemingly ignored the problem.
“This [expletive] is criminal,” Kendrick Boyd told Mic adding that Gov. Rick Snyder “deserved to go to prison for this. They gave [ex-Detroit mayor] Kwame Kilpatrick 28 years for stealing money. This man just endangered lives. People die from this.”