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Baxter writes: "Nakiya Wakes, who lives in Flint, refuses to pay for the water supply that made her family sick. Because she owes $1,983.59 to the city of Flint in unpaid water bills, the city cut off her water supply last month."


"We are tired and frustrated," says Angela Hickmon of Flint, right during a rally where about 100 people demanded not to have to pay for water that has been tainted by lead in downtown Flint. (photo: Romain Blanquart/Detroit Free Press)


Flint Residents Are Being Punished for Not Paying for Poisoned Water

By Anthony Baxter, Guardian UK

04 April 18

 


The ‘fix’ for Flint promised by politicians never came, instead residents face a final indignity – residents’ water supply is being cut off for unpaid bills for water that made them sick

akiya Wakes, who lives in Flint, refuses to pay for the water supply that made her family sick. “I refuse to pay for poison,” she told me. Because she owes $1,983.59 to the city of Flint in unpaid water bills, the city cut off her water supply last month. She turns the taps, and they run empty.

Nakiya showed me the boxes of bottled water stacked up on her porch outside. The state has shut a number of free bottled water pick up sites in Flint – or PODs as they’re known here locally. It is feared the remaining four will soon face the axe. That means more residents are forced to buy the bottled water they need.

Nakiya and her son begin to pour bottle after bottle of Nestle water into the cistern of their toilet. “It takes two cases of bottled water for just one flush,” Nakiya tells me. “And so we can wash, I pour bottled water into a pan and heat it up in the microwave.” Those costs add to Nakiya’s $180 a month bill for power and light. And the trash in Nakiya’s bathroom is overflowing with crushed plastic bottles.

Nakiya, who holds down a low paid part-time job and lives paycheck to paycheck, stopped making any further payments on her outstanding water bill over a year ago. She and her family underwent tests which revealed an alarming rise in the level of lead in their blood. Her son has learning difficulties. Her daughter has suffered a seizure. Nakiya blames drinking Flint’s poisoned water – as she does for the loss of her unborn twins.

Months after I first started reporting on Nakiya for a documentary film, her story was highlighted by Hillary Clinton in a 2016 election campaign video. But the national news cameras have long since gone. And instead of the ‘fix’ for Flint promised by visiting politicians, Nakiya and her fellow residents now face the final indignity.

“It’s like we’re living in a real life horror movie that never ends,” says mother of four and Flint activist Melissa Mays, who has also received a water shut-off notice.

“Up to 90 homes a day are being shut off. And it’s still winter. We’re going through a deadly flu outbreak. People are unable to clean or bathe and so people are passing around the sickness. I get it that the city needs money – but the state should be paying. They did this.” Despite repeated requests, the City of Flint has been unable to confirm the exact number of homes where the water has been shut off.

It was after investigating water shut-offs in nearby Detroit – which were deemed an affront to human rights by the United Nations – that I first began following Melissa and other Flint residents in August 2015. Back then, the city had been branded an economic basket case by Michigan governor Rick Snyder and placed under ‘emergency management’. And in order to save money, the disastrous decision was taken to switch the city’s water supply from Lake Huron, to the local Flint River.

Melissa’s work that I filmed back then [and that of fellow resident Leanne Walters] was crucial in rallying Flint residents to conduct a citywide lead tests with the help of professor Marc Edwards at Virginia Tech university. The shocking results forced a U-turn by the state to return the Flint’s water to the Great Lakes. However, today, scientists are unable to agree on whether the city’s water is safe. And the residents don’t know whom to trust. Many refuse to use the water for anything other than flushing the toilet.

But now for Nakiya’s family and hundreds of others like them, even that is no longer an option.


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+7 # dotlady 2018-04-04 22:41
More government squeezing the poor black population. Outrageous - like the way the people in Puerto Rico are being treated - just left without much help.
I wish they would use gray water after bathing or washing clothes to prime the toilet though. This is a very uneconomical use of fresh drinking water.
 
 
+4 # itchyvet 2018-04-04 23:30
How on earth, can anyone living in their home, accumillate $1,983.59 for their water charges ?
 
 
+5 # Rcomm 2018-04-05 09:08
I'm certain there are more Flint stories like this. As a Michigan resident it makes me sick and I don't even drink Flint's water.

Governor Snyder survived the fiasco by sacrificing a few people to shoulder the blame and he quietly slipped away.

Snyder's action of appointing an interim manager for Flint saved a few dollars but has cost us many times that amount attempting to correct a problem that still exists; and that doesn't include the human suffering of those like Ms. Wakes.

As long as we elect politicians who care nothing about the people they represent stories like these will be commonplace.
 
 
+7 # Diane_Wilkinson_Trefethen_aka_tref 2018-04-05 10:01
When a business sells you a product, there is an implied warranty that the product, when used as intended, will fulfill its primary function in a manner that does not threaten the user’s health and/or safety. If the product fails to meet this minimum obligation, it can be returned for a full refund. In the case of perishables, going to the merchant with proof of purchase is usually sufficient to obtain the refund and that is CERTAINLY true in cases where the product has been the subject of a health warning and/or recall.

So if a government agency sells water, the most important function of which is to be drunk, and that water has been analyzed and declared unfit to drink, how come that agency can charge for that water and KEEP the money it has collected? And worse, how can it, after ostensibly “fixing” the problem so the water it supplies currently is now potable, cut off the water to residents who refuse to pay for the previously "purchased" provably tainted water?

If I were an attorney, I would off my services pro bono to the residents of Flint to file a civil class action suit against the agency, the city, and every entity that had ANY part in the sale and delivery of the lead-laden water.
 

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