WASHINGTON - In the largest U.S. water rate survey of its kind, Food & Water Watch today released a comprehensive review of the 500 largest U.S. community water systems that found that large, for-profit privately owned systems charge 58 percent more than large publicly owned systems. An overwhelming majority of U.S. water customers—87 percent—receive their water from a publicly owned, not-for-profit service provider.
I started reading this article and got all the way to paragraph #2 before I had to stop. When it mentioned my home town of Flint, Michigan, I couldn't get past what was said without commenting.
Through the decades since 1985 I've written several articles about Flint where I likened Flint to the caged canary taken into the coal mines by miners. The birds were used as a warning indicator: When the oxygen in the tunnels got used up, the birds dropped over dead and it was time for the miners to clear out.
In 1985 General Motors began offshoring its manufacturing jobs from Flint. What happened to Flint foreshadowed the devastation that would be spread across all of America as other manufacturers followed suit.
The game is to increase short term profits through cheap labor, and use "free trade" as the excuse to import foreign made goods into the USA without paying the import duties that should be rightly applied. Most of us know how well that's worked for the average American worker.
Well, Flint's leading the way again, folks. As the headline reads, privately owned water utilities charge their Customers more than publicly owned and operated municipal water utilities; an average of 58% more.
Say your monthly bill for municipal water runs $50 on average. If your municipality switches to a private company, next year at this time you'll be paying $75 per month for the same amount of water. You can bank on it.
Anyway, what forced me to stop reading is the sentence that says the Residents in Flint, Michigan pay more for their water than any other town or city included in the list. I'm not implying that what's happened in Flint is due to a privatized water system. The outrageous part of what's happened to Flint is that it has a municipal water supply system that is supplied by Detroit public works.
Flint began using water from Detroit during the 1960's while I was in grade school there. Many communities in eastern Michigan buy water pumped from Lake Huron and treated by Detroit because it's traditionally been less expensive to buy water than for a community to use and treat water from local sources.
Over the years, hard pressed Detroit has increased what it charges Flint for water to help balance their budget deficits. I don't have a list of the rate hikes, and don't know what effect the Emergency Managers appointed by Governor Snyder to take over Detroit finances have had on those rate hikes. It seems that the string of Emergency Managers sent to Flint have used the same strategy in Flint; rate hikes have been used to fund other City services to balance budget deficits.
While Flint has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, the low income families there pay an average of more than $850 per year for water.
Along with the privilege of paying more for water than anyone reading this, Flint Residents get a bonus prize: They get the most toxic, undrinkable water you can find coming out of any faucet in America. And they pay more for it than you do. If you were to give this water to your infant or young children to drink or bathe in, by the time they reach their teen years there's a good chance they will exhibit the same level of intellectual and physical disabilities as do Down's Syndrome individuals of the same age.
Federal regulations mandate action be taken when detected lead levels reach 15 parts per billion. To date over 650 homes in Flint have been tested to have dangerously high lead levels, many of which exceed 100 ppb. Of those, 17 exceed 1,000 ppb. The highest level to date tested at over 10,450 ppb.
There are probably 30,000 single dwelling homes in Flint. There was no data on how many homes had been tested. The study states approximately 10,000 samples were taken over a 4 month period. It doesn't state how many of the samples included had been taken from the same residence over that period of time. Anyway you look at it, Flint's got some big problems.
Since Reagan was in the White House, right wingers have been harping about how government is incompetent, and that private industry can do things more efficiently than government. Just as tax cuts fail to produce the promised jobs, private industry "efficiency" invariably leads to higher end-user costs.
Take a lesson from Flint: If someone comes up with a great-sounding plan to privatize your municipal water system, send them packing - in tar and feathers if necessary. Don't let the neoliberals sell off your local commons to privateers.
The situation in Flint isn't the best example; it wasn't caused by a private water company. It was caused by an incompetent government administrator who was appointed by the governor of the state in a prime example of where cronyism always leads.
If you allow your State or local government to surrender what is a valuable community resource into the hands of private corporations, you are chaining yourself to ever-increasing water rates at the whim of a private corporation, with no recourse to undo what's been done.
If you have any spare time/energy these days, how about trying to stir up some outrage over what's happening to my home town. The republican governor and republican dominated State legislature in Michigan have done nothing to begin replacing the damaged lead pipes in Flint that need to be replaced.
The community of Flint is in crisis. The damage to the infrastructure was caused by State administrators. The local economy's been in bad shape for a long time and the City's tax base took a huge hit it's never been able to recover from when GM pulled out. Things are only worse now, and the People who live there don't deserve to be treated like Taliban terrorists.
The new Mayor has an economical and efficient plan for getting started. She just needs the funding. The federal government could step in tomorrow and get things rolling in a big way. The Residents of Flint aren't asking you and me, U.S. Taxpayers to foot the bill. They just need some emergency disaster relief funding, loans that will be paid back by the State of Michigan. New Jersey residents received relief with the most recent hurricane. What's happening in Flint's been going on for nearly 2 full years, with no real end in sight.
The neoliberal Governor Snyder is groveling for federal grants to pay for cleaning up his mess. Don't let him get away with this. He recently passed business tax cuts. He can raise taxes in the State to protect the lives of the Residents of Flint in this crisis if he had the heart and the will to do so; he doesn't. He's content to let the suffering continue while he goes begging to the federal government, crying about how much it's going to cost. He did manage to come up with the funds to hire a Public Relations firm to handle the publicity this tragedy he caused has been garnering of late.
The other thing that needs to be done is to build national public support to have Governor Rick Snyder and his entire political administration from office. Apparently the Lt. Governor is as bad as Snyder.
Since this crisis began in April 2014, administration officials have worked to conceal the truth of what's been happening and to drag their feet in providing any form of relief to the Residents of Flint. It's time to bring this disaster to an end.
In my opinion, federal prosecutors need to be sent to Michigan and begin investigating the Snyder administration under the federal RICO statutes. There's ample evidence to indicate Snyder has been involved in a number of schemes involving business and political cronies to bilk the taxpayers and residents of the State of Michigan of billions of dollars in tax revenues that should have gone to paying for the maintenance of deteriorating public schools or public health projects. This includes the plan to create a new water district which is where this whole Flint fiasco began. Snyder needs to be taken for a perp-walk, and the Residents of Flint, Michigan deserve to be treated as if they were Citizens of the United States.
Landmark Survey Shows For-Profit Water is a Risky Rip-Off
Of course public water systems will almost always cost less since they do not provide profits to the rich owners and their minions. But it is ludicrous that Phoenix, Arizona in the middle of the desert should be charging LESS for water! Obviously something major is wrong there...
Phoenix is actually probably a good example of how a municipal water supply system should be run. They pump water from the Colorado River and treat it.
The real issue with Phoenix is a problem of land development. It's just plain dumb to plant a large city in the middle of a freakin' desert where there's absolutely no water to support the human activity that goes on there. What Phoenix had was cheap land that got exploited by land developers for relatively short term profits.
What's it going to cost to relocate the population of Phoenix as climate continues to change? Water is only going to become more scarce and eventually Phoenix won't be able to pump what it needs from the Colorado River.