The utility that delivered disgusting, toxic water to the people of Flint charged them ridiculous amounts of money for the privilege, according to a report from Food and Water Watch. The public interest group surveyed the 500 largest water systems in the country and found that Flint's was the most expensive, with an annual water bill of $864 for a typical household, reports the Detroit Free Press. That was nearly twice the national average and more than three times what people in nearby Detroit paid. The Washington Post notes Flint's lead-contaminated water cost more than 10 times as much as water in Phoenix, "which is literally in the middle of a desert." Despite charging such high prices, the utility switched to corrosive Flint River water in 2014 as a cost-cutting move.
Flint is one of the poorest cities in the US, with a median income of $24,834, reports Reuters. Water and sewer charges in the city worked out to around 7% of household income, more than double United Nations guidelines for affordable water, and they remained high even after a judge ordered the rollback of a 35% price rise introduced in 2011. A lawyer who sued to reduce rates tells the Free Press that Flint had been "using that money improperly for years to fund the general operations of the city." Mary Grant, a lead author on the Food and Water Watch report, tells the Post that the situation in Flint is "an indictment of running water systems like a business instead of a public service" for the common good. (The Flint investigation could lead to manslaughter charges.)