Friday, May 13, 2016

Flint Water Bills Could Double in Next 5 Years Without Help

On Friday during the regularly scheduled Flint Water Interagency Committee, officials said that water bills could double over the next five years in the city.

FLINT, Mich. (WEYI) -- Flint Officials Friday said water bills could double over the next five years, it was revealed during a Flint Water Interagency Committee meeting,

Flint, Michigan, residents already pay higher water bills than neighboring communities, according to a presentation made during the meeting.

Flint's water crisis began in April of 2014 when the city's water supply shifted away from the Detroit water system and to Flint River water. Later, it was discovered that the river water was leeching lead from the aging pipes in the city and putting it in the water. Tests of the children in the city showed that many had elevated lead levels in their blood. In October of 2015, the city switched back to the Detroit water supply, but the water is still considered unsafe to drink.

Flint's water bills, officials said, are three times higher than "peer cities."

Michigan Treasurer Nick Khouri explained there are several reasons for this high cost, ranging from the cost of purchasing the water, to the system being too large for a shrinking city population, to the loss of water from the system that never even reaches the customers.

As NBC25/FOX66 News has reported previously, anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of the water in the Flint system is lost through leaking and broken pipes. At the time, officials said a typical city only loses 1 to 2 percent of their water in this way.

Khouri explained that without a change in how Flint operates the water system, or some kind of outside financial help, the water bills are expected to double within five years.

The average monthly water bill for a Flint resident right now is $53.84. Khouri says that by 2022 that number will rise to $110 per month.

Khouri broke down the costs of the Flint system, showing that Flint pays more than its peer cities for operating costs, water supply (which is currently coming from the Great Lakes Water Authority), capital costs, and retiree healthcare.

Flint, Khouri said, isn't even covering its costs with these high water bills. The system is running a deficit.

Possible solutions were discussed, though not a lot of specifics were offered at this time. It was suggested that the operating costs need to be reduced. Additionally, Flint must find a way to repair the aging water system in order to end all of the water loss through leaks and water main breaks.

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