The tainted water that poisoned an entire generation of children in Flint, MI, was the most expensive water in America.
At $864/year/household, Flint's water rates were nearly double the national average. The price rose to its heights when Flint's corporate manager — appointed by Republican governor Rick Snyder, who gave the CEO the power to override elected officials — illegally imposed a new tariff on the city's water bills whose surplus was used to fund the city's other operations.
The data on Flint's water rates comes from The State of Public Water in America, a new study just released by Food and Water Watch.
"It far exceeds what the United Nations designates as affordable for water and sewer service," said Mary Grant, one of the study's authors. The United Nations recommends that water and sewer service shouldn't exceed 3% of a household income. In Flint, the charges totaled about 7%, Grant said.
A Flint lawyer who sued to reduce the rates says they are high in part because city officials and state-appointed emergency managers have tapped water and sewer money for other needs.
"They've been using that money improperly for years to fund the general operations of the city," said Valdemar L. Washington, who has been battling the rate increases in court since 2012. The city's sewer fund had a balance of $36 million in 2006 but was running a $23-million deficit by 2012, Washington said.
The State of Public Water in America [Food and Water Watch]
Flint residents paid America's highest water rates
[John Wisely/Detroit Free Press]