FLINT, Mich. (CN) - Taking the stage in a city overtaken by a poisoned-water crisis, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders spent much of their debate Sunday night, the Democrats' seventh since October, focused on Flint's troubles. Both called for a federal investigation of the disaster that has been borne most heavily by the city's minority community.
The crisis revolves around the discovery of high levels of lead being discovered in the city's drinking water, and the ensuing controversy over the city's slow response in addressing it.
Nikki Wade, a Flint resident and mother of two, said she has been directly impacted by the crisis, and asked each of the candidates what they would do to restore her trust in government.
"That's a very fair question," Clinton said. "Your government at all levels have let you and your children and the people of Flint down.
"As president ... I will work with elected officials who I trust like your mayor and your senators and members of Congress so that we can assure you that when it's fixed, you can trust it. You deserve nothing less," Clinton said.
Sanders told Wade that "What is going on is a disgrace beyond belief."
"As the president of the United States ... what I would do if local government does not have the resources [to address a crisis] or if the state government, for whatever reason, does not have the resources, then the federal government should step in.
"American shouldn't be poisoned," Sanders continued. "If local government can't do it, then the federal government comes in, the federal government acts."
Lee-Anne Walters , another Flint resident whose family was harmed by the fouled water, sought a promise that the city's water system would be fixed in the candidate's first term if one of them should be elected.
Sanders did so immediately.
"I will make a personal promise to you that the EPA and the EPA director that I appoint will make sure that every water system in the United States of America is tested, and that the people of those communities know the quality of the water that they are drinking, and that we are going to have a plan to rebuild water systems in this country that are unsafe for drinking," Sanders said.
Clinton said that she agreed and wanted to go further. "I want us to have an absolute commitment to getting rid of lead wherever it is because it's not only in water systems, it's also in soil, and it's in lead paint that is found mostly in older homes. That's why 500,000 children today have lead lead in their bodies."
Both the senator and the former secretary of state said Mich. Gov. Rick Snyder should either resign or be recalled for failing the people of the city. As they spoke, the governor was live tweeting his defense of his actions.
But consensus between the two Democrats quickly evaporated when the topic at hand turned from water, and moved onto subjects ranging from institutional racism to international trade and impact on rust belt community to gun control and health care coverage.
In response to a question about the U.S. auto industry's moving much of its assembly work to Mexico, Sanders lambasted his opponent.