The people of Flint Michigan pay the highest water rates in the entire USA for the lowest water quality in the entire USA.
Now that’s what I call efficient government!
The nonprofit advocacy group Food and Water Watch surveyed 500 of the largest water systems in the USA, and published a report titled “The State of Public Water in the United States.”
The survey compares rates based on an average household usage of 60,000 gallons a year. On that basis, Flint’s rates are calculated at $864 a year — although local media have assessed the average water bills in Flint to be twice that at $1,680 per year. But even the mythical $864 per year far exceeds what the United Nations designates as affordable for water and sewer service. The UN recommends that maximum of only three percent of household income be spent on water and sewer service. Flint’s water percentage is over seven percent.
This is for water that is still too poisonous to drink or bathe in. Water that Flint residents are still being charged for. Flint has the nation’s highest water rates, and offers deadly sludge. That’s the magic of the “free market.”
Water that caused permanent and irreversible brain damage in an unknown number of people, including children.
Perhaps the ultimate in surreal madness is that it even occurs to anyone to demand payment for this toxin, when the government should instead be shelling out millions in damage awards.
In August 2015, Genesee Circuit Court Judge Archie Hayman ordered the city to reduce rates by 35 percent. However, city officials ignored the order, and did not reduce rates. Instead mass water shutoffs were resumed after the city reconnected to the Detroit water system in October 2015. Seven shutoff notices were sent to Flint residents just before Christmas. Another 1,800 shut-off notices will go out this month (Feb 2016).
Remember: even though the city has switched the water source back to the Detroit system, there is still lead leeching out from the pipes in Flint, in a chemical process that started when the man-made disaster began in April 2014.
Even before the disaster began with the city’s 2014 switch to the Flint River, the high rates provoked protests. In mid-2012 the Michigan Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit filed by Flint City Council President Scott Kincaid over high rates. At that time residential rates in Flint had gone up by 110 percent in less than a year.
The purpose of mass cut-offs is to facilitate privatization. A utility becomes easier to sell to an investor after it has been purged of the vermin (i.e. poor people). After the sale, the big commercial interests in Michigan who don’t pay any water rates now (and who owe the most money of all) will suddenly be hit with extremely high water bills. Governor Rick Snyder will help these commercial interests by creating yet another Flint, and taking the money from that city to use as payments to the investor. Then the process will repeat. This is the march of privatization. This is neoliberal heaven.
On the other hand, the people of Flint are mostly poor and Black. Who cares about them?
Well, with the march of neoliberalism, there’s just one little flaw in that thinking…