Who will pay and who will suffer?

By Lucas Barinaga

NB: We thank Hope4Flint for helping us distribute our surveys and collect answers. The responses underneath may reflect a bias of sourcing data via a single channel. (We tried to get data from more people — the survey was public — but the people of Flint may be tired of answering outsiders’ questions. Our survey results are based on 20-21 r

Solutions in Flint will depend on ability to pay — and willingness to pay. To get an idea of ability, we asked our anonymous respondents their household monthly income:

It looks as if around 2/3rds of our respondents make less than the US median household income of $4.600 per month. This figure might be sufficient to pay for water service (the average bill is $75/month in nearby Detroit, which is both more expensive than the national average but perhaps cheaper than Flint bills would be if customers had to pay to restore their system), but 90% of our respondents are unwilling to pay for water service, leaving comments such as ‘I am only paying for flushing the toilet’ or ‘why pay if you are still being poisoned?’

Who should pay? 80 percent said the state of Michigan and 20 percent said the city of Flint. Sadly, when asked a follow up question (“Do you feel that the government is effectively trying to solve this crisis?”), most said No.

Unfortunately for the people of Flint, the government is not stepping in, which means they need to choose between paying for “poisoned water” or losing their home. As of May 19th, more than 8,000 Flint residents have been threatened with foreclosure for failure to pay their bills.

Are they not paying because they are too poor or too unwilling? The answer may not seem important when the system needs money to pay for costs and restoration (the cost of new supplies coming from Detroit just increased by 4.7%), but it’s important to the people of Flint. Why should they have to pay when others have messed up their city’s water system?

Update (14 June): “Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has charged five water officials — including a member of Gov. Rick Snyder’s cabinet and a former emergency manager — with manslaughter related to their alleged failure to act in during the Flint Water Crisis.”