Yet another layer to add to the mounting tragedies relating to the Flint tap water crisis, which we've been following on our blog for months here and here: residents of the impoverished city (where more than 40% live in poverty) are actually expected to pay their monthly water bill for water that has poisoned their families. And in an ironic twist, for those families who can't pay their monthly water bills (which average around $140 a month), water could be shut off. It's sick to wonder whether having one's water shut off is actually a GOOD thing-- that really shows the depth of this crisis. Currently, Flint officials are having to weigh and measure whether not being able to raise water rates and put leins on delinquent water bills could push the already-struggling city into bankruptcy. Really? Raising water rates on poisoned water? It just seems too ludicrous and despicable to comprehend.
Although the water source has been switched back to Detroit after the terrible misstep of starting to use water from the polluted Flint River in order to save money in 2014, many say that the damage has been done and Flint's tap water is still not safe to drink. It's an overwhelming catch-22 for Flint's residents: drink potentially still-poisoned tap water, have their water source shut off because they can't pay, rely on pricey and wasteful bottled water...none of the options seem viable, acceptable, or fair. And for those of us reading the news stories week after week from afar, we feel powerless, angry, and heartbroken for the undeserving victims of this unfathomable crisis.
Michigan's Attorney General Bill Schuette states, "If you can't drink the water, you shouldn't pay for it." Schuette's office has launched an investigation into whether they can take legal action to stop the billing for the poisoned water. In order for the legal action to be justified, Schuette's office must find that laws have been broken. For us as observers, it seems like there is absolutely no question laws have been broken-- how could anyone say otherwise? But we all know how the system works and the system often fails, especially when poor, underprivileged populations are involved. This story just haunts us and breaks our hearts over and over again. How can this happen in America, the wealthiest, most technologically-advanced country in the world? How can we let our nation's children down like this? When will it stop?