Energy

Flint Won’t Take People’s Homes Over Unpaid Water Bills

The Flint City Council blocked a plan Wednesday that would have foreclosed on people’s homes for not paying millions of dollars in unpaid water bills.

City Council members approved a one-year moratorium on the liens after Flint citizens protested the city’s threats to foreclose the homes of nearly 8,000 people affected by last year’s lead crisis. Many people have been directed to drink out of water bottles until the city’s pipelines are brought up to snuff.

Council President Kerry Nelson said he had received numerous calls to his office pleading for the move. Residents are refusing to pay the city’s high rates for water that could not be used without a filter.

“Too numerous to tell you how many, the calls have been coming in,” Nelson told reporters. “Enough is enough. I’ve made up my mind tonight to do what I need to do for the people who elected me.”

The city is caught between granting leniency for delinquent bills and pooling together the money necessary for the pipe fixes. Chief Interim Financial Officer David Sabuda told reporters Wednesday that the liens amounted to $5.8 million, $400,000 of which has been paid down.

He said: “We need every dollar to pay our bills.”

Michigan state officials have been struggling to get the small, mostly black town’s water system up and running after lead contaminated its water supply. High levels of lead are believed to be a contributing factor to the outbreak in Legionnaire’s disease.

Officials switched the small eastern Michigan city’s water supply from Lake Huron in 2015 to the Flint River in a bid to save money. But the state applied the wrong regulations and standards for drinking water, which ultimately resulted in corroded pipes. There have been a handful of deaths connected to the crisis.

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