Flint residents still paying bills for contaminated water as relief workers scramble to deliver emergency supplies

flint waterThis residential area appears to have been spared the marks of economic blight that characterize so much of Flint — dilapidated houses and boarded-up buildings. But its residents have been fully exposed to the latest crisis: a chain of bureaucratic missteps that led in April 2014 to the city being provided with improperly treated river water, which corroded the plumbing system and exposed an unknown number of people to toxic levels of lead.

The caravan crawling down Cromwell was one of 55 teams of National Guard, state patrol and civilian volunteers working to deliver emergency supplies to every household. So far, the state reports that between these deliveries and the five resource sites where people can also pick up free supplies themselves, more than 121,400 cases of water, 82,600 water filters and 23,400 water testing kits have been distributed.

And while residents appreciate the effort, many say what they really want is some relief from the steep utility bills they continue to pay for the contaminated water that is making them sick.

Tina Kellogg, a 33-year-old mother of two, has been enforcing a strict bottled-water-only rule in her house since the city first switched its water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River nearly two years ago.

“There was no way, even though it was being cycled, that we were drinking it,” Kellogg told Yahoo News.

 And while the image of the National Guard going door to door with water might “look really good,” Kellogg said she’d much rather pay $2 for a case of 35 water bottles at Walmart than pay the $160 bill she receives every month for contaminated water they only use to shower.

“I personally don’t feel that we should be having to pay a water bill at this point in time,” she said. “I think that could be a break that they should give all citizens.”

Kellogg said she associates the Flint River with news reports of dead bodies found at the bottom and the garbage she said she’s seen floating in it. Before the switch, Kellogg and her family regularly drank and cooked with tap water, but now they only use it to bathe.

“None of us have broke out in a rash, but we do watch for that,” she said, noting that they also use the tap water to brush their teeth but are careful not to swallow — a routine she’s worked hard to impose on her 9-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son.

Kellogg also wants to know if the city will have to replace its plumbing system, and if so will homeowners like herself have to do the same? Just finding out whether her house has lead or copper pipes will require a costly assessment.

“How much money is it gonna cost each individual person to change every pipe in their house?” Kellogg asked. “That’s something that the state hasn’t even thought about.”

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