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7th March 2016
Flint water crisis takes centre stage before Democratic debate

'We're going through a water crisis; the poisoning of a city of 100,000 people'

The Associated Press Posted: Mar 07, 2016 8:37 AM ET Last Updated: Mar 07, 2016 8:37 AM ET

Before Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders squared off in the public debate Sunday, much of the activity was focused on bringing national awareness to the water crisis.

A group known as Justice 4 Flint held a march over the Flint River, protesting the water crisis, which has left much of the water tainted with after officials switched the city's supply from Detroit's system to the Flint River in 2014 to save money.

"It just seems like the government is dragging its feet and not much has been done, yet," said Tiffany Williams, who is originally from Flint but lives in Seattle and organized the event from her home there. "I mean, there has been some progress, but it just hasn't been enough fast enough."

And group called "Voices Seen, Voices Heard" held up photos of children affected by the ongoing Flint water crisis.

Claire McClinton, who calls herself a Flintstone, was born and raised in the city. The community activist screened a documentary Sunday, highlighting the Flint water crisis.

"We're going through a water crisis; the poisoning of a city of 100,000 people," she said. "Every once in a while, we have to pull ourselves together and lift ourselves up and assess where we have been and what we've accomplished so we can move on."

McClinton praised Canadians who have been sending bottled water to Flint.

"We love you, keep sending the water, keep exchanging ideas. Let's continue to work together, to organize a society for a better world," she said.

Clinton said in her opening statement in debate that "it is raining lead in Flint" and more needs to be done to help the residents of Flint deal with the aftermaths of contaminated drinking water.

Sanders noted in his opening statement that he had called on Mich. Gov. Rick Snyder to resign for his "dereliction" of duty. He said what is happening in Flint is happening throughout the country to a lesser degree.

During the debate, Clinton said that as president, she would assure Flint residents that their water has been double- and triple-checked before telling them it is okay to use it again.

She applauded President Barack Obama's push for the resignation of a regional administrator because of Flint's water crisis and said he was right to expand Medicaid to help people there.

She also said health and education interventions must be done to help Flint children with elevated lead levels.

Asked whether she would fire the head of the EPA over the lead-tainted water, Clinton said Sunday night that she would launch an investigation "and determine who knew what, when, and yes people should be fired."

To the same question, Sanders said a "President Sanders would fire anybody who knew what was happening and did not act appropriately."

For the first time Sunday, Clinton called for Snyder's resignation, saying he should either resign or be recalled from office.

Sanders has previously demanded that Snyder step down.

Snyder has apologized for the disaster but has said there were failures at the state, federal and local levels.

The Republican governor took to social media Sunday night, where he said "political candidates" will be leaving Flint and Michigan in a few days after the state's primary, but he is "committed to the people of Flint."

"I will fix this crisis and help Michigan forward," Snyder said.

With files from CBC's Aadel Haleem
The Associated Press, 2016
The Canadian Press