It’s jarring enough to receive a large bill when you don’t expect it, but to be asked to pay hundreds of dollars for a tainted product you don’t even want to use is even worse. After last year’s lead poisoning crisis in Flint, MI, state officials say that city’s water now meets governmental guidelines for lead. But although many residents still don’t trust the water, now that the state has ended a subsidy program that reduced their water bills, Flint is asking people to pay up.
A woman in Flint, MI, says the city sent her a bill for $1,090.09 in back payments, reports Vox. The city had installed a new water meter in her house in December and claimed it showed she had been undercharged.
Like many in Flint, she doesn’t drink the water out of her tap: Over the last few years, residents of the city have been dealing with water that’s contaminated with lead.
The city is now trying to replace thousands of pipes that are leaching lead into the water supply. And it needs cash, because although the state says it’ll help pay to replace those pipes, it’s ending a subsidy program that reduced customers’ water bills.
This week, Flint issued shutoff notices for more than 8,000 people who are six months late on their bills. The city says it will place tax liens on people’s homes, or push them into foreclosure, if they don’t settle their bills by May 19.
The 76-year-old woman who spoke to Vox didn’t receive one of the shutoff notices — she’s paid enough of her bill every month to keep service on — but she hasn’t had much luck fighting the bill for back payments. She still has an outstanding balance of $638 left.
“People are moving away, and a lot of people I talked to said they weren’t paying it because we can’t even drink the water,” she told Vox. “But I’m old; they know I’m stuck here.”