Flint Water Crisis Could Cost Over $1 Billion

Posted at 11:03 AM, Jan 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-16 11:03:11-05

Flint's water crisis could cost the state millions, but one local economist says the long-term costs may reach into the billions. 

Hundreds of filters and cases of bottled water are just the start of fixing Flint's water problem. 

"It looks like this is going to be a long-term costly mistake for the state of Michigan," Michigan State University Economist Charles Ballard. 

Ballard says pinning down that exact cost is going to take time, especially since the city and state are only starting to realize the magnitude of the problem.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg. I think there are going to be long term exposures -- it will cost money that somebody has to bare for decades if, as it appears, there were some children who suffered long-term damage as a result of this," Ballard added.

With Governor Rick Snyder asking for federal disaster aid, that will help residents get clean water in the short-term. A permanent fix is going to fall on the state and taxpayers.

"I think we're not taking a few millions," Ballard noted. "Add up all of the costs that are going to happen as a result of this crisis, they could add into the hundreds of million,s or even billions of dollars." 

Part of making sure the water that comes out of the tap stays clean may take new pipes and that could the state nearly $50 million. 

"There probably will be some lawsuits and the lawsuits will cost money either to defend or there may be some settlements," Ballard added. 

He says paying those off will likely take cuts to state programs, but he says the state should be able to handle that expense.

"I don't see this as dealing a crippling blow to the Michigan economy--it has dealt a crippling blow to the lives of certain people in Flint," Ballard said.