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Lindsey Smith

West Michigan Reporter/Producer

Lindsey Smith is Michigan Radio’s Investigative Reporter. She previously served as Michigan Radio's West Michigan Reporter. Lindsey has worked as a reporter at radio stations in both West and Southeast Michigan, and her work has been recognized by both the Michigan Association of Broadcasters and Michigan AP. She’s a graduate of Eastern Michigan University and Specs Howard School of Media Arts.

Q&A

What has been your most memorable experience as a reporter?
Reporting from a hot air balloon was one of the scariest. Trying to bubble-wrap my recording equipment to come with me down a giant waterslide took the most preparation and ingenuity. Mostly I remember people; so many downtrodden, truthful, funny, inspiring, regular-everyday people. Nearly everyone I meet and talk to shapes how I view life in at least the slightest way.

What is your favorite program on Michigan Radio?
"Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me." It's hilarious. "On the Media" is a very, very close second.

What do you like best about working in public radio?
Mostly, I'm proud of what we do and the stories we produce.

What modern convenience would it be most difficult for you to live without?
The internet! What did anyone do without it! I mean, I remember life without it, but it's amazing how much I rely on it every day.

What is your favorite way to spend your free time?
It depends on the season. I love wakeboarding in the summer, hanging out on the beach, going on long walks with my dog Lola, grilling. In the winter I wish I could hibernate. I do enjoy snowboarding and movies and warm drinks indoors then.

What are people usually very surprised to learn about you?
If I told you, it wouldn't be a surprise!

There are lead service lines in older communities across Michigan. Because of their age and population size, it’s fair to say the bulk of Michigan’s lead service lines are in cities in Southeast Michigan.

I spent a lot of time trying to determine which Detroit suburbs have lead service lines and how many. I wanted to see how far out into the suburbs lead was found in underground water pipes.

notices
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Because of the Flint water crisis, several Michigan cities are making long term plans to replace old lead water pipes that connect homes to the water main.

That is good for public health, but well-meaning municipal water operators can actually make lead exposure worse if they’re not careful.

There’s a mix of lead and copper pipes buried near the corner of Trinity and Florence in a neighborhood on Detroit’s northwest side. When I visited a month ago the block was lined with nice, two story brick homes and orange construction barrels. It smelled like diesel.

1992 LCR document from Battle Creek
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

One of the things Flint’s water operators got in trouble for was falsifying records; for saying the city was testing homes at the highest risk of having elevated lead levels when it was not. But records obtained by Michigan Radio show Flint is not the only city in the state that tested the wrong homes over the years and potentially underestimated lead in water.

The biggest culprit for high lead in tap water is the lead water pipes that connect a house to the water main. That’s why cities are supposed to test those homes.

construction workers
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Public and political pressure from the Flint water crisis is beginning to shape new, tougher water regulations in Michigan - and other states are taking notice.

If passed, they’d be the strongest such measures in the country.

Two years ago, when news broke about the Flint water crisis, lots of people wondered if Michigan’s governor would resign. That’s because emails show Rick Snyder’s top aides had concerns about Flint’s water long before pediatricians and scientists proved there was a huge problem.

Water faucent in Flint.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s drinking water regulators need more resources to do their jobs correctly. That’s one of the major takeaways of a detailed federal audit released Thursday afternoon.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched the audit almost two years ago, right after the state at least started to acknowledge that there was a serious problem with Flint’s drinking water.

Lead service line
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Most water systems operators around the state had a hint this was coming.

The Flint water crisis has reverberated among water professionals working from Muskegon and Grand Haven all through the state and to the Detroit metro area; where the bulk of the state's drinking water lines are still buried.

Mark Savage / Entergy

The Palisades nuclear power plant will stay open until 2022 after all.

Late last year Entergy, the company that owns the plant, announced that Palisades would shut down early, in the fall of 2018.

Palisades spokesman Val Gent says they told employees Thursday morning, when executives unfurled a big banner that read “2022.”

pregnancy test
Fred Jala / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Researchers from the University of Kansas and West Virginia University say lead-contaminated water in Flint may be linked to lower fertility rates and higher fetal death rates in the city.

The researchers compared the birth and death certificates in Flint to more than a dozen other comparable Michigan cities, like Detroit, before and after the city's water switch in April 2014.

Courtesy photo / 110th Attack Wing, Battle Creek Air National Guard Base

There’s a new guy running the drinking water division at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Eric Oswald served 12 years of active duty in the Air Force. He spent the last five years as a commander at the Air National Guard Base in Battle Creek.

Oswald is not a drinking water expert.

drinking fountain
jasongillman / pixabay

There’s still a lot of money on the table for Michigan schools that wish to test their drinking water for lead. Far fewer school districts have taken advantage of the grant program than the state expected. So the state is trying to tweak the lead testing program so more schools could or would apply for the money.

pork chops on a grill
bitslammer / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCLO

A massive new plant that turns hogs into pork loin and bacon opens up this week in Coldwater, about 80 miles southwest of Ann Arbor.

The new Clemens Food Group plant employs more than 800 people. Once it’s up and running, it’ll process roughly 10,000 hogs a day.

“This is the biggest thing we’ve had in 30 years,” said Mary Kelpinski, CEO of the Michigan Pork Producer Association.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

After the judge dismissed the murder charge against him, and advised LaMarr Monson to go enjoy his life, he held his sobbing mother in the hallway just outside the courtroom for a long time.

Delores Monson never gave up on her “baby son,” now 45 years old. For years, she tried to convince people her baby was innocent.

“Different prosecutors, judges, lawyers, I’ve been to so many people it’s not even funny. But I thank God for Jesus. And I thank God that my son is home. And he’s free!” she shouts, beaming ear to ear.

“He’s free! He’s free! He’s free!”

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Akilah Cobb was seven years old when they arrested her dad, Desmond Ricks, in 1992. Her sister was only five days old.

Cobb says she was ashamed and angry when she found out why her dad was gone. Her mom and grandma always told her Ricks was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But she didn’t always believe it.

“I felt like whatever was going on, whatever I heard – (he) did it. That put a huge effect on our relationship. I didn’t speak to my father for about five or six years straight in jail,” Cobb said.

CharlesHodgson / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCLO

Detroit is trying to prevent street flooding by regularly cleaning the sewer grates and catch basins on the side of the road.

The city announced the new program Tuesday.

“Lately we’ve been getting less frequent rain but the intensity of the rains has been more severe. So not only is it a nuisance but it also can be hazardous,” Detroit Water and Sewer Department’s chief engineer Palencia Mobley said.

It likely wouldn’t prevent major street flooding like what happened in 2014, but the situation should improve, Mobley said.

Courtesy Photo / Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee

A necropsy (basically an autopsy for a fish) of the eight-pound Asian carp found just nine miles from the Great Lakes is finished. It shows that the fish was born and raised in central Illinois; proof for some that the barrier isn’t strong enough.

Bailiwick Studios / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCLO

As political pushback heats up over confederate monuments, the city of Lowell is dropping the name Robert E. Lee from a longtime community attraction.

Donnie Ray Jones / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Detroit is trying to do more to prevent premature births and infant deaths. The city outlined the new plan Wednesday.

picture of DTE Trenton Channel power plant
Courtesy of DTE Energy

DTE Energy wants to replace three old coal plants with a huge new natural gas burning one. The company expects to break ground in 2019, DTE announced today. That's if it can convince the state that there is a need for the new plant, and that natural gas is the best way to fill it. 

Trevor Lauer, DTE Electric's president and chief operating officer,  says the plant will be capable of producing 1,100 megawatts. That's enough to power 850,000 homes.

Courtesy of the Detroit Health Department

Detroit activists are highlighting what they say is a growing public health crisis. Today they brought in medical experts from outside the city to discuss the potential health implications of mass water shutoffs in Detroit. They want a moratorium.

“There’s no question that access to safe and clean water from a health perspective is a top priority,” Detroit’s top health officer, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said.

Ali Elisabeth / Michigan Radio

This week, community organizers in Detroit are bringing in experts to talk about the health implications of city-imposed mass water shutoffs. They want to highlight a research project done at Henry Ford Health System that showed a statistically significant correlation between water shutoffs and water-associated illness.

But Henry Ford Health System spokeswoman Brenda Craig warns the study was not conclusive because the city only provided block-level data, not specific addresses that have been turned off.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

Grayling water officials say they’ve discovered “trace” amounts of a type of perfluorinated chemical in the city’s drinking water wells. The levels are far below a health advisory put out by the U.S. EPA.

Grayling Department of Public Works Superintendent Kyle Bond says they first tested for the family of chemicals known as PFCs in May.

The Washington Writer's Academy in Kalamazoo
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Lawyers say they’ve agreed to a broad framework to settle lawsuits against the state’s School Reform Office. The office caused controversy when it mailed letters to thousands of parents earlier this year, saying their child’s school was at risk of closing because of “academic failure for many years.”

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

This week, attorneys representing four Michigan school districts will argue that the state overstepped its bounds when it threatened to close three dozen low-performing schools earlier this year.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Genesee County United Way is expanding its program to help low-income Flint residents pay their past-due water bills. The non-profit is funneling more money to the program and is looking to raise even more.

Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) has wrongly accused tens of thousands of people of cheating on their unemployment claims.
Bytemarks / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Attorneys for a number of people who say the state of Michigan wrongfully garnished their wages or seized their tax refunds hope an appeals court will rule quickly in their case.

Karl Williams says he’s one of tens of thousands of people who were wrongly accused of fraud by the state’s automated system for unemployment insurance.

The Lansing resident says the state is still garnishing his wages. He’s been working a ton of overtime to make ends meet.

Kalamazoo River
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Federal environmental regulators want to remove the Otsego City Dam in Allegan County in an effort to clean up toxic chemicals left behind by the paper mill industry.

The newly proposed plan released late last week also includes excavating some of the contaminated Kalamazoo River banks, and rerouting the river channel past the most contaminated areas.

Flickr user Frank Juarez / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Just before the holiday weekend, Central Michigan University’s Board of Trustees made official what parents have known for a while now: Michigan Technical Academy is closing. The pre-k through 8th grade charter school in Detroit has been open for more than a decade.

The state had threatened to close the school in the spring, over persistently low performance on standardized tests.

Keeria Myles says her 8-year-old daughter, Sonja, had only been at the school one year, but loved it.

“She’s upset about it and she feels like it’s her fault,” Myles said.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Judith Pruitt’s water bill is $7,545.29.

That’s after the Flint retiree withdrew nearly $900 out of her savings account a few weeks ago to pay the city, or else her water would’ve been shut off, she said.

New data analyzed by Michigan Radio show Pruitt is not alone.

I am switching roles a bit at Michigan Radio. The change requires me to sell my lovely house in Grand Rapids to work out of Ann Arbor.

Groups brainstorming
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Elected leaders in Grand Rapids are trying to satisfy critics who say they’re not doing enough to change police policies and outcomes critics say are racially biased.

It's part of a larger effort launched after violence in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014.

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