A water pollution scandal in the US has risen to the surface of this year’s presidential campaign.
Lead-contaminated drinking water was piped to Flint after the city in Michigan switched its supplier in 2014 to save cash.
Efforts are now underway to protect the population, with bottled water being distributed, but Hillary Clinton used Sunday night’s televised debate of Democratic presidential hopefuls to express her outrage at Flint’s poor, mainly African-American residents being exposed.
“I spent a lot of time last week being outraged by what’s happening in Flint, Mich., and I think every single American should be outraged,” Clinton said in the debate, broadcast by US channel NBC.
“We have 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.”
Clinton’s comments came on the day that civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson met residents in Flint and accused state and local officials in the city of compromising the health of locals to save money.
“Somebody made a trade off. And the people of Flint have been betrayed,” Jackson said.
Republican Governor Rick Snyder has apologised for the state’s handling of the crisis as calls for him to resign intensify.
Among those demonstrating in Flint have been filmmaker and city native Michael Moore.
“They knew that the people here did not have the political power to do anything about it,” he said, leading a rally in the city on Saturday.
Moore called it “a racial crisis” and “a poverty crisis”.
He took to Twitter to thank Hillary Clinton for raising the issue in Sunday’s debate.
After taking the cheaper option in 2014, Flint, about 100 km northwest of Detroit, has now reverted to its original supplier after tests revealed elevated lead levels in the water and in the blood of some children.
Lead contamination can cause brain damage and other health problems when ingested.
Genesee County, where Flint, a city of just under 100,000 residents, is located, has seen a spike of Legionnaires’ disease resulting in 10 deaths that may or may not be related to the water crisis, state officials have previously said.
As health fears continue to grow, President Obama declared an emergency in Michigan on Saturday and ordered federal aid for state and local response efforts.