Criticized for his handling of a water crisis that has exposed residents of a city of nearly 100,000 people to lead poisoning, Michigan’s governor on Tuesday apologized to the citizens of Flint and pledged to fix the problem.
“Your families face a crisis — a crisis you did not create and could not have prevented,” Snyder said in his State of the State address Tuesday.
“To you, the people of Flint, I say tonight as I have before: I am sorry and I will fix it,” Snyder said. “Government failed you.”
Snyder has been criticized for his handling of the crisis. Earlier on Tuesday, protesters near the capitol building repeated calls that he resign.
President Barack Obama on Tuesday met with Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, the same day that the Environmental Protection Agency said officials acted too slowly to address the crisis and that it was hampered by “resistance at the state and local levels to work with us.”
The debacle in Flint began after the governor-appointed emergency manager in 2013 inked a deal to stop buying water from Detroit in order to save money.
Water from the Flint River was used, but tests later showed it wasn’t properly treated and caused old pipes to corrode, allowing lead to leach into the water, officials said.
Lead poisoning can cause mental and physical development problems. A first batch of 2,200 tests showed that at least 43 children had elevated levels of lead in their blood.
Protesters in the state capital of Lansing ahead of the speech Tuesday placed the blame squarely on Snyder, and said the town’s appointed emergency manager put the budget over the health of the town’s children.
“They pumped poison into our homes, we fed it to our children, we were promised it was safe,” said Melissa Mays, a Flint resident and founder of the group “Water You Fighting For?”
“The state failed us. They lied.”
RELATED: A timeline of the Flint water crisis
The crowd chanted “Clean water!” and “Snyder must go!” near the Michigan Capitol Building.
Obama on Saturday declared a state of emergency in Flint over the water crisis. The declaration allows assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies. The National Guard has been sent to the city to distribute water.
Snyder admitted his office knew last summer that Flint residents had complained they were “getting blown off” by state environmental officials.
Flint resumed using Detroit water in October.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has called on Snyder to resign. Hillary Clinton said at Sunday’s debate that “every single American should be outraged.”
In New Hampshire Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz called the situation in Flint “an absolute travesty.”
“It is a failure at every level of government,” Cruz told reporters there. “It is a failure of the city officials, it is a failure of the county officials, it is a failure of the state officials and the men and women of Michigan have been betrayed.”
This article first appeared on NBCNews.com.