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ACLU, NAACP-LDF demand Flint officials stop threatening residents' homes over unpaid water bills

Water faucent in Flint.
Mark Brush
Michigan Radio
The civil rights organizations argue that because filters are still required to drink Flint's water, customers shouldn't be forced to pay water bills.

The ACLU of Michigan and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund are calling for Flint City Council and Mayor Karen Weaver to suspend any efforts to impose liens on homes where resident's haven't paid their water bills. Those liens could eventually give the city the right to sell off the home if the debt isn't paid back. 

The city issued more than 8,000 notices in April warning water customers that if delinquent water bills go unpaid, they could face property liens that would foreclose their homes.

In a lettersent Tuesday to Flint officials, the civil rights organizations deemed the liens "exorbitant and unjust." 

ACLU of Michigan Executive Director Kary Moss authored the letter.

She wrote, "The city has the power to put a moratorium on home foreclosures which is the only equitable solution resulting from this tragedy. The suffering of Flint residents should not be compounded by the loss of their homes." 

The letter cites moral reasoning against water liens, and raises the possible illegality of such actions. The ACLU states that in order to make residents pay for water, the water is legally required to be fit to drink.

Officials from the EPA, as well as state and local governments, have stated that Flint's water is now fully within the requirements of the Lead and Copper Rule. However, Flint residents are still being urged to use water filters.

The ACLU and NAACP-LDF argue that requiring water filters implies the city's water is not fit to drink, and therefore Flint water customers should not be given an ultimatum to pay the bills.

Mayor Karen Weaver has said in past statements that she agrees with those who oppose the liens, but that the move may be required under city ordinance.

Flint water customers currently have until February 28, 2018 to pay outstanding water and sewer charges.

Emma is a communications specialist with the digital team at Michigan Radio. She works across all departments at Michigan Radio, with a hand in everything from digital marketing and fundraising to graphic design and website maintenance. She also produces the station's daily newsletter, The Michigan Radio Beat.
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