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Lindsey Smith

Investigative Reporter

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 repeatedly recognized by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters and Michigan Associated Press. Her 2015 documentary about the Flint water crisis, Not Safe to Drink, won the station a national Edward R. Murrow Award, an Alfred I. duPont - Columbia University Award, and a Third Coast/Richard H. Driehaus Award. The Detroit chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists named her "Young Journalist of the Year" in 2014.

She’s a graduate of Eastern Michigan University and Specs Howard School of Media Arts.

Lara Moehlman / Michigan Radio

After reporting on the Flint water crisis, there’s one question people have asked me over and over: Should I be worried about lead in my tap water?

We can look at the numbers cities provide in annual reports. But those numbers don’t always tell the whole story.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Three communities in Michigan are taking a much closer look for lead in their drinking water this year.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Last week, Michigan Radio published a story about the Village of Beverly Hills, Michigan; a Detroit suburb located in southern Oakland County. The village currently has the highest 90th percentile for lead in water in the state.

Two women
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Jennifer Gilchrist moved from New York City back home to the Detroit suburb of Beverly Hills in 2016. She moved to help take care of her mom Joellen, a retired Detroit high school teacher, and to fix up her childhood home.

That’s when a plumber told them they had a lead service line.

Students protesting
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

About 100 students rallied in the rain Tuesday afternoon, marched up to the second floor of Welch Hall, and confronted the president of Eastern Michigan University.

A packed public comments hearing on the recent Nestle permit.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

80,945 against to 75 in favor.

These numbers show the scope of the public opposition to a new proposal from Nestle.

The company wants to be able to pump a lot more water out of the ground in West Michigan that it can bottle and sell under its Ice Mountain brand.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality should update its rules on the level of lead that’s considered acceptable in drinking water.

That is the one thing most everyone at a public hearing in Lansing Thursday night did agree on.

But many Flint activists and environmentalists say the proposed changes to lead rules don’t go far enough. Others, especially those running community water systems, say changes go way too far, presenting major legal and cost issues.

In the 1930s, property assessors graded American cities on a four-point scale, with the worst neighborhoods coded red, giving birth to the term "redlining."
Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America / Creative Commons

It’s been half a century since the federal government banned discrimination in the home mortgage industry. But a new analysis of mortgage data shows people of color are still routinely denied conventional mortgage loans far more often than white people.

The father of survivor Katie Black weeps as his daughter speaks.
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

The second day of the Larry Nassar sentencing in Eaton County got off to a turbulent start when an angry father of three victims lunged at the former sports doctor.

After a brief break to calm the chaos, Judge Janice Cunningham addressed the nervous crowd:

"This is such a unique case that involves hundreds of victims, and therefore hundreds of family members, brothers, sisters, spouses, friends. And to have watched the pain and the suffering of what loved ones have gone through is [unimaginable]...So if it is hard and difficult for me to hear what [Randall Margraves'] daughters have to say, I can't imagine what it is like for a parent."

Screen grab from ONE OF NASSAR'S YOUTUBE VIDEOS

More than 13 years ago, a concerned mom brought her daughter into the Meridian Township Police Department to file a police report against Dr. Larry Nassar.

Detectives ended up closing the case without forwarding it to prosecutors. Now, police are releasing their case report to the public. The department plans to hold a press conference Thursday about what went wrong.

Survivors of Larry Nassar
Jodi Westrick and Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

It's been a tumultuous week in East Lansing, home of the Spartans.

President Lou Anna Simon resigned on Wednesday, and Athletic Director Mark Hollis stepped down Friday, in response to mounting rage over the school's handling of Larry Nassar.

MSU President Lou Anna Simon
Bike Ann Arbor / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon wanted to “personally” provide state lawmakers an overview of how the public institution is responding to the “issues surrounding the terrible crimes committed by former MSU physician Larry Nassar."

On January 10, the week before Nassar is sentenced for sexual abuse, Simon wrote that she wanted to give lawmakers a heads up that they “will likely continue to hear a variety of allegations and accusations against the university.”

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

All the snow and cold and even a bum wrist from a recent fall didn’t stop Otis Lee from his mission to get vaccinated. Using a cane, Lee hobbled into the student center at the University of Detroit Mercy, where the Detroit Health Department has set up a vaccination clinic specifically for restaurant workers and food handlers.

A nurse administers a vaccine.
Rhoda Baer / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The hepatitis A outbreak has affected at least a dozen restaurants in three southeast Michigan counties this year. That’s why Oakland County is hosting two vaccination clinics for restaurant workers this week, no appointment necessary.

Restaurant workers are a priority target for the limited supply of the hep A vaccine because they handle other people’s food. Those who catch the virus are most contagious before they show symptoms of hep A.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality is vowing to strengthen lead-in-water rules because of the Flint water crisis. At a public meeting in Lansing Wednesday night, state regulators said they cannot wait on the federal government to finish its own version of the new rules.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality is unveiling changes to lead in water rules this week.

Communities in Michigan with lead water pipes will have special interest in a public meeting Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality is hosting Wednesday night.

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) testifies at a hearing in 2009.
Rep. John Conyers office / Flickr

U.S. Congressman John Conyers maintains his innocence against sexual harassment accusations and says he will not resign. That’s according to a statement Conyers released via his new lawyer late Wednesday.

Conyers has previously acknowledged a $27,000 legal settlement with a former staffer. He says the settlement was a way to avoid a lengthy, expensive lawsuit.

The woman alleged Conyers fired her because she rejected his sexual advances.

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.

It was relatively easy (albeit an expensive FOIA bill near $2000 for these "public documents") to track down which communities were testing lead lines. But figuring out how many lead pipes were in each community is nearly impossible.

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.

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