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  • The Flint River flows through downtown in Flint, Michigan, Dec. 16, 2015.

    The Flint River flows through downtown in Flint, Michigan, Dec. 16, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

Published 18 February 2016

As many as thousands of Flint residents could join billion-dollar legal action as they continue to search for answers in the ongoing water crisis.

Amid the ongoing water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan, and refusal of authorities to accept responsibility, new reports have shown that the city's residents were not only slapped with the highest water bills in the country for their lead-poisoned water, but were also likely drinking more toxic substances than just lead.

According to a new report from Food and Water Watch released Tuesday, Flint topped the list of the most expensive U.S. water systems as of January 2015 with an average annual bill of US$864.32 in a city where over 40 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Flint residents were paying about US$500 per year more for water than the average U.S. family, and authorities still hadn’t owned up to the fact that it was corrosive, toxic water flowing through the pipes that was costing them such a heavy price.

The news comes as The Intercept revealed Wednesday that Flint residents who drank lead-poisoned water may have also drank toxic perfluorinated compounds, also known as PFCs, after the city switched the water system to the long-polluted Flint River.

According to The Intercept, a Michigan Department of Community Health report indicated in May 2015 that the Flint River had elevated levels of PFCs, including PFOS and C8, which has been linked to health problems including two kinds of cancer.

The May 2015 report showed levels of the pollutant PFOS in the Flint River passed state limits for both drinking and non-drinking water. The river water had already been flowing into resident’s taps for more than a year by the time the levels were detected.

OPINION: Flint is the Latest Front in Michigan’s Water Wars

As news continues to go from bad to worse in Flint, residents are fighting back. Legal teams are working on three class-action lawsuits and as many as thousands of Flint residents could join the suits to demand Michigan state officials take the fall for the crisis.

Damages in the lawsuits could top US$1 billion. The plaintiffs report suffering serious health problems, emotional distress, and betrayal by the government that long denied the crisis.

Flint’s water source was switched in April 2014, and complaints about water quality surfaced within months. But residents were told for months that the water was safe to drink, even as Michigan officials provided bottled water to state employees in Flint in January 2015, a full year before providing safe water to Flint residents.

It wasn’t until October 2015 that Flint’s water was switched back to Lake Huron water system, leaving a massive infrastructure problem of heavily corroded pipes and lead contamination as the legacy of the polluted water that was allowed to flow into Flint homes for 18 months.

WATCH: Environmental Racism in Flint, Michigan

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