Over the next five years, the people living in Flint, Michigan, are going to see their water bills more than double in the wake of the crisis that's turned the city's drinkable water into a hazardous material.
When Flint officials first switched the city's water source from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the Flint River back in 2014, they neglected to treat the pipes with the appropriate corrosion inhibitors that would have prevented lead from leaching into the water. That critical mistake led to thousands of Flint residents (many of them children) being exposed to incredibly toxic levels of heavy metal and an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease that has killed 10 people.
Now, years into the federal crisis, Flint's residents still have difficulty accessing water that they can use to drink, cook, and bathe. Flint's elected officials have done little more than point fingers in blame, and the people affected have turned to begging the EPA for clean water.
According to a new report from the Michigan Department of Treasury, the renovation necessary to make Flint's water potable again will come with a costly bill that residents are going to have to foot. Over the next five years, water bills in Flint are projected to jump from about $54/month to $110/month as pipes are gradually replaced throughout the city. The logic behind the jump, Michigan Treasurer Nick Khouri explained, was linked to the decline in the city's population.
“[Flint's water system was] built for 200,000 people, but you don’t have 200,000 people,” Khouri said. “It’s a system with high fixed costs. When you have a high fixed-cost system, there are things you can do, but it would be marginal changes."
Today, Flint is home to some 99,000 people, meaning that they have to take on the expenses that those who moved away from the city left behind.