Sunday night’s Democratic debate drew to a close with no questions about the ongoing lead poisoning crisis that has impacted tens of thousands of people in the struggling city of Flint, Michigan.
When NBC moderators asked the candidates for closing statements, Hillary Clinton used her remaining time to explain why she’s “outraged” by the lack of attention on the public safety disaster, which President Obama just declared a federal emergency.
“I think every single American should be outraged,” Clinton said. “We had a city in the United States of America where the population, which is poor in many ways, and majority-African American, has been drinking and bathing in lead-contaminated water. And the governor of that state acted as though he didn’t really care. He had requests for help that he basically stonewalled. I’ll tell you what: if the kids in a rich suburb of Detroit had been drinking contaminated water and being bathed in it, there would have been action.”
A report released in September found that lead contamination in Flint’s tap water — caused by the city switching to a cheaper water system — was making its way into its residents’ bloodstreams, hurting children in particular. At the same time, the city has seen an unusually large spike in cases of Legionnaires’ disease — a respiratory illness caused by Legionella bacteria — that could be related to the water crisis. There have been nearly 100 reported infected and 10 killed by the outbreak so far.
Residents had been pleading with the state to act, saying their water was discolored and foul-smelling, but Republican Gov. Rick Snyder did not declare a state of emergency until mid-December. He has since called in the National Guard this week to help clean up the city’s water supply and distribute drinkable water and water filters.
Clinton noted that she has reached out to Flint’s mayor to ask how she and her campaign can help. Speaking next, Sen. Bernie Sanders agreed with Clinton on the seriousness of the crisis, and going one step further. “I think it is also right is to demand the resignation of the governor. A man who acts so irresponsibly should not stay in power.”