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To pay or not to pay: Flint residents continue to be billed for lead-poisoned water

water faucet
Flickr user Bart

The state Senate today unanimously approved $28 million to help Flint with its water crisis. Three million of that has been set aside to “aid with utility/unpaid bills issues.”

Whether or not to pay for water they’re unable to use has been a big question for Flint residents, whose water rates are among the highest in Michigan. Just today residents and activists protested at Flint City Hall, calling for a moratorium on water bills.

Amber Hasan and Laura MacIntyre both live in Flint. MacIntyre continues to pay her water bill, while Hasan hasn’t paid hers since fall.

Laura MacIntyre and Amber Hasan
Credit Mercedes Mejia
Laura MacIntyre and Amber Hasan

Hasan tells us she decided not to pay her water bill because she spends more money on bottled water now than the bill itself. Her bill is $214 per month, and she estimates she spends at least $300 every month on bottled water.

She tells us it was difficult to decide not to pay her water bill because it could lead to the condemnation of her property, but feels it is important to take a stand against the government's "Well, we poisoned you, but you’re paying for it," attitude.

“I don’t want to be paying my water bill,” MacIntyre says. “Not because of the financial costs that are incurred, but as a political statement. I don’t think that we should be paying for something that we shouldn’t use and that we’re being overcharged for. But, that being said, my family is paying the water bill because out of all things considered in this water fight … we feel like there’s only so many things that we can, you know, butt our heads up against.”

"We're not just being ignored, we're being mocked and laughed at for having this problem."

Hasan isn’t paying her bill, but tells us she’s setting money aside just in case the city does decide to come shut off her water.

“There’s going to come a point where I have to make that decision, where I have to make that choice of whether I’m going to say ‘no I’m not paying it,’ or whether I’m going to break down and pay it,” Hasan says.

Adding insult to injury, the two feel that their cries for help aren’t being heard by the city government.

“It feels like ... our rights are just simply being ignored. We voted against the emergency manager, we got the emergency manager," Hasan says. “At this point, it’s like we have a voice, but when we shout it out it just gets lost somewhere out there. Like, you know, who’s listening?”

“We’re not just being ignored, we’re being mocked and laughed at for having this problem,” MacIntyre tells us.

Amber Hasan and Laura MacIntyre tell us more about the water bill situation in Flint in our conversation above.

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