It’s well known that the Flint water crisis occurred because of a switch in water sources. Rather than receiving clean water from the Detroit water system, Flint residents instead started getting their water from the highly polluted Flint river in April 2014.
It is also well known that the switch in water sources was implemented as a money-saving measure. Perhaps those responsible for the switch did not understand the price they were eventually going to have to pay. Perhaps they didn’t care because they were not the ones directly affected by it.
What is not well known, Think Progress
reports, is that there were other money-saving options that could have been tried instead. Options that could have potentially prevented the crisis.
The problem with the switch in water sources, aside from the obvious fact that people had their clean drinking water replaced with poison, is that it didn’t really end up being a money saving venture.
When the people in Flint — where poverty rate is over 40 percent
— realized that they couldn’t drink their water, many started buying bottled water instead. To help defray the costs that come with purchasing copious amounts of bottled water, some people stopped paying their water bills, seeing it as ridiculous to have to pay for water that was unusable. Flint residents’ water bills were also significantly higher than those in surrounding areas and were nearly eight times higher
than the national average, making the decision to stop payment even more understandable.
When people don’t pay their bills, for whatever reason, the money that is required to keep things running dries up pretty quickly. In Spring 2015, to help deal with costs rising instead of falling, Flint requested a memo from consulting group Fisher, Sheehan & Colton on how to make water rates more affordable. It has been suggested that if the city had acted on the advisement they received, at the very least, the financial repercussions would have been avoided, and perhaps even the severity of the contamination.
Roger Colton of Fisher, Sheehan & Colton suggested several changes that would have made water affordable for the residents, meaning bills could have been paid and the city would have had more revenue. While the contamination had already begun by the time people stopped paying their water bills at such alarming rates, having a more affordable water plan in place could mean that the city wouldn’t have needed to come up with ways to save money, which was the reason the water sources were switched to begin with.
Unfortunately for the city’s residents, Flint never responded to the memo, and they are currently dealing with the ramifications of the Flint water crisis. Political embarrassment, however, is nothing compared to what the actual residents of Flint are facing on a daily basis.
Residents of Flint have reported paying $200-300 dollars per month for bottled water to cover their basic needs. Many are also continuing to pay their exorbitant water bills out of concern for the costs that come with having the water shut off, including having their homes condemned and their parenting skills questioned (Michigan’s child protective services consider lack of running water to be a sign of neglect).
The bottom line is that the Flint water crisis came as a result of severe neglect, and now thousands of residents are suffering physically, emotionally, and financially.
Featured image via Patch