Bernie Sanders Had a Strong Response to the Water Crisis in Flint

January 16th 2016

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders took a hard stance against Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) on Saturday morning. The Democratic presidential candidate released a statement calling on Snyder to resign, due to his administration's slow response to the lead-contaminated water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Gov. Snyder was elected in 2010, a year notably marked by a rise in Tea Party fervor. 

Sanders' statement follows an investigation initiated by Michigan's attorney general on Friday looking into the poisoning of Flint's water — which began around two years before state officials first addressed it — to determine if any laws were broken.

Snyder apologized for his administration's handling of the situation earlier this week, but to Sanders, an apology is not enough.

“There are no excuses," Sanders said in his statement. "The governor long ago knew about the lead in Flint’s water. He did nothing. As a result, hundreds of children were poisoned. Thousands may have been exposed to potential brain damage from lead. Gov. Snyder should resign."

"Because of the conduct by Gov. Snyder’s administration and his refusal to take responsibility, families will suffer from lead poisoning for the rest of their lives," the statement continued. "Children in Flint will be plagued with brain damage and other health problems. The people of Flint deserve more than an apology."

Sanders is currently preparing for a weekend in South Carolina, where Sunday night's debate with former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley will take place.

Though Clinton did not call on Gov. Snyder to resign, she, too, released an outraged statement about events in Flint, in which she cited the city's large minority population and high rate of poverty.

"There is no excuse for what’s happening in Flint. A city of 99,000 people — a majority of them African-American, 40 percent in poverty — spent nearly two years drinking and bathing in water that we now know contained dangerous amounts of lead," Clinton said in a statement. Clinton also wrote that although she was relieved that the Michigan Legislature approved more than $9 million to help Flint fix its water supply that she was "calling on the state of Michigan to finance water purchases from Detroit until safe drinking water is fully restored in Flint.”

As of Saturday morning, Republican presidential candidates have yet to comment on the crisis in Flint or leadership in Michigan.

This week, Snyder declared a state of emergency and ordered the National Guard to help deliver clean water to the city's roughly 100,000 residents. As Sanders pointed out in his statement, although lead poisoning presents health risks to everyone, officials in Flint are particularly worried about the city's children due to research revealing that lead exposure can seriously affect a developing child's IQ and result in learning disabilities.

The water poisoning seems to be the result of a decision made by the state two years ago, when the Michigan state government took over Flint's budget during a state of financial emergency. The city's water supply was switched from Lake Heron to the Flint River temporarily to save money until a new supply line in Heron was ready.

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