The heavy toll exacted on the residents of Flint, Michigan, goes beyond the potential health consequences of consuming lead-contaminated water. It turns out that households in the city paid dearly for the privilege, with the poisoned water flowing through the city's taps last year being the most costly in the nation.
Data released Tuesday found that as of January 2015, the yearly water bill for a resident of Flint came to $864.32, roughly $500 more than what the average U.S. household paid for water from other public utilities, according to Food & Water Watch. The advocacy group reviewed the 500 largest U.S. community water systems. On the other end of the spectrum, the report says household water use was most affordable in Phoenix, Arizona, where the annual tab came to $84.24.
The report found large, for-profit owned systems charge 58 percent more than large publicly owned ones, with 87 percent of U.S. water customers getting their water from the latter.
Residents of Flint, where more than 40 percent live below the poverty line, were granted some relief from the hefty water bills with a circuit court ruling in August that the city had to cut the rate it charged for water service by a third, finding a 2011 rate hike to have been illegal.
In April 2014, the city shifted its water source from Detroit to the Flint River, a cost-cutting move that resulted in corroded pipes causing lead poisoning and a Legionnaires' disease outbreak that killed at least nine people and sickened 78.