The National Guard sent dozens of additional members into Flint, Michigan, on Monday to help address the impoverished city's water crisis, as Gov. Rick Snyder came under widening criticism — from residents and presidential candidates — for his handling of a massive exposure to lead.
The 70 new guardsmen more than doubled the number already in Flint to hand out bottled water, filters and testing kits in the city's worst-hit neighborhoods. The first wave of troops arrived over the weekend, while President Obama declared a state of emergency and ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to join the effort.
The contamination is linked to Flint's decision — under the oversight of a city manager appointed by Snyder — to save money by taking tap water from the Flint River. Soon after the April 2014 switch, some of the city's 100,000 residents began complaining about the taste, smell and appearance of the water. Tests later showed the river water lacked proper treatment, causing lead to leach from old pipes. Local children have shown elevated levels of lead in their blood, a condition that can cause permanent brain damage.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is investigating possible crimes. Snyder has been accused of allowing the problem to fester.
Protesters said they would march near Snyder's home in Ann Arbor on Monday afternoon.
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton expressed her outrage at Sunday night's Democratic presidential debate. She suggested racial undertones to Flint's problems and blamed Snyder.
"We've 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," Clinton said. "And the governor of that state acted as though he didn't really care."
Her chief rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, has also criticized the way Snyder has handled the unfolding disaster.
Snyder, a Republican, has accused Clinton of seeking political gain by criticizing him. But he has also repeatedly apologized, and he did it again in a breakfast appearance at the University of Michigan's Flint campus, according to the Detroit News.
In an interview published in the National Journal Monday, Snyder even agreed with a reporter's question that Flint's water crisis is his Hurricane Katrina.
"Do you think that's unfair?" the reporter asked. "No," Snyder responded. "It's a disaster."
Meanwhile, frustrated Flint residents continued to feed and bathe themselves and their children with bottled water.
Snyder said that workers have delivered water and filters to 16,000 homes, but that's not even half of the city's 50,000 households.
Shayne Hodges, a 38-year-old father of three who bought his home just before the crisis, said he and his kids survive on two cases of water a day. He looks in their eyes for signs that the lead is affecting them, even though he knows poisoning could take years to reveal itself.
"Not knowing what's going on and when we're going to be fixed — I bought my home here, so I'm trapped, basically. That's how I feel," Hodges said.
Ariana Hawk, 25, a pregnant mother of two, said her 2-year-old son has rashes on his face and body from exposure to the contaminated water. She bathes him and her other child by wiping them down using bowls of bottled water warmed in the microwave.
She said she was heartbroken, and lived in fear of the long-term consequences on their brains.
"It's upsetting, you know. I got two little ones that are getting ready to go to school. I gotta think five years from now, that anything at any point can mess with they brain or alter them in a way," she said. "I don't want them to grow up like that."
Hawk said he had yet to have water delivered to her home. She called Snyder's response "bullcrap."
"I don't think that it's sincere," she said.