After Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (D) slammed Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI) for the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan, the governor voiced displeasure on Monday that she was “politicizing” the situation.
“People can draw their own conclusions, but that’s what it appears to me,” the Republican governor told The Detroit News at a Martin Luther King Day breakfast at the University of Michigan-Flint.
During Sunday night’s Democratic presidential debate, Clinton said that “every single American should be outraged” over the lead-contaminated water, criticizing Snyder for acting “as though he didn’t really care” and saying he “stonewalled” requests for help.
“Obviously, I care,” Snyder told the publication, referencing Clinton’s comments. “I’m here today. We’ve done a number of actions. We’re going to keep working on putting solutions in place.”
He added, “And what I would say is, politicizing the issue doesn’t help matters. Let’s focus in on the solution and how to deal with the damage that was done and help the citizens of Flint and make Flint a stronger community.”
Snyder has apologized in the past for the state’s role in the water crisis. But the consequences of the water crisis may be irreversible. Lead can affect children’s brain development, with “no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe,” according to the World Health Organization.
Flint residents have had to use filters and bottled water since the water became contaminated with lead in April 2014 after the city switched its supply source and treatment, drawing corrosive and polluted water from the Flint River. Previously, Flint’s water source came from Lake Huron. The measure was intended as a cost-cutting move, while the city waited for a new pipeline to Lake Huron to be built. But the switch to river water resulted in spiked lead levels in children. The water supply was switched back to Lake Huron water in December 2015, but contamination concerns remain because the river water likely damaged pipes and other infrastructure, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Flint residents filed a class-action lawsuit last week against Snyder and the state and local governments for not intervening in the water crisis sooner. The lawsuit alleged that officials knowingly replaced safe drinking water with lead-poisoned water and charged residents for it.
Snyder has faced increasing backlash for his slow response to the Flint water crisis. Water was only distributed days after he declared a state of emergency in early January. Flint officials declared a state of emergency on the city level several weeks prior. Last week, Snyder deployed his state’s National Guard, who are going door-to-door to distribute clean drinking water, new filters, and lead testing kits.