Flint, Michigan, is sending out notices to residents who haven’t been paying for their city water services. The notices say that services could be cut off if payment isn’t received. This is a normal civic administrative practice except for one thing: Flint’s water is so badly poisoned that the National Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency have been called in to manage the situation, which has left residents drinking bottled water that’s being given out as an emergency measure.
In a matter that, remarkably, appears unrelated to the problems involving the toxic elements in the water, the city had been enjoined last year from sending overdue notices because of a lawsuit accusing it of raising service rates improperly. But with that restriction lifted, and after a break from issuing notices over the holidays, “officials say they will again start sending warnings to those behind on their bills,” the MLive site reported Thursday.*
As MLive notes in dry fashion:
Some residents have expressed outrage over the fact they are being billed for water they cannot drink without filtration due to elevated lead levels found in water in some Flint homes.
Sounds about right.
Police in Flint also confirmed this week that a break-in was reported over the Christmas holiday at an office in City Hall where documents related to the water crisis were kept. “At this point it’s hard to tell if any files were taken,” the city’s mayor says, but no other offices were apparently targeted by the burglary.
Federal authorities announced on Jan. 5 that they will investigate whether the water crisis, which you can read more about here, involved any criminal activity. As Daily Kos puts it, “It’s probably just a coincidence that this break-in occurred in the mayor’s suite, in the one office containing the documents relating to the lead poisoning of residents, with no other offices burglarized, just days before confirmation the federal government is officially investigating.”
*Correction, Jan. 14, 2016: This post originally misstated that the first new overdue notices were being sent this week. Some were sent in November before a break in collections over the holidays, and more are being sent now.