Justice

Flint Residents Could Lose Their Homes Over Poisoned Water Bills

Residents of Flint, Michigan, recently received some mail from the city with a troubling message: pay your past-due water bill or risk losing your home.

About 8,000 Flint residents received this notice, informing them that if they don't pay up by May 19 the city will put a tax lien on their house, according to local station 25 News. The tax lien could result in foreclosure if the debt is not paid.

Residents who received the notice reportedly haven't paid their water bills for at least six months. 

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"I got scared, for probably the first time since this all started this actually scared me," resident and activist Melissa Mays told 25 News. The notice she received on Friday demanded payment on a $900 bill. 

Although the mayor's office didn't immediately respond to ATTN: for comment, the City of Flint Treasury Department's Al Mooney told the TV station that the city needs the money. 

"We have to have revenue coming in, so we can't give people revenue I mean, excuse me, give people water at the tap and not get revenue coming in to pay those bills," Mooney said. 

Gov. Rick Snyder ended state subsidies to the city on March 1, despite opposition from city officials.

"This is a trust issue, that's what it is," Flint Mayor Karen Weaver told reporters on Feb. 20.

Residents couldn't drink the water for years. 

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When the city switched water sources in 2014 to save money, Flint residents were exposed to lead and other water contaminants. Low-income residents and minorities were primarily affected, and the revelation of the massive poisoning and the lack of response from public officials made national headlines. At least 13 officials  were arrested in connection with the scandal, according to CNN. Michigan State Attorney General Bill Schuette's office even accused state and local employees of covering up the poisoned drinking water by manipulating reports.

ATTN: spoke to Flint resident and water activist Nayyirah Shariff, who said people are being charged for water they couldn't drink. 

"All Flint residents, they've never stopped being charged for water," she said. "We've only had a partial bill subsidy from the state. We were getting charged every single month and that in itself is an affront  knowing that you're paying for water that made you sick." 

Shariff said the latest threat of tax liens is a slap in the face to Flint residents who had to fight just to get water they can drink.

"These sort of strong-arm tactics aren't new, but it's just adding insult to injury that people are being charged for water," she said. "I'm just kind of undone that the city has gone to this extent."

RELATED: There's Already a Movie in the Works About the Flint Water Crisis