The city of Flint, Michigan, stopped sourcing its water from Detroit’s system and started pumping from the Flint River to save money. Credit: Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

People in Flint, Michigan, started complaining about their tap water in the summer of 2014, not long after the city stopped pumping its drinking water from Detroit.

It had started pumping water from the Flint River – it was the cheapest option at the time.

But there were problems right off the bat: Residents said the water was brown or reddish; it stank; it tasted weird. On top of all that, four months after the switch, the city detected E. coli in the water.

“How does this happen in the United States?” Flint resident and mother Lee Anne Walters asked. “I mean, you hear about it in Third World countries, but how does this happen, specifically in a state that is surrounded by the Great Lakes?”

It’s a good question.

Michigan Radio reporter Lindsey Smith continues her investigation into Flint’s water crisis by looking back to 2013 for answers.


  • Read: 6 reads to catch you up on Flint’s water crisis

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Julia B. Chan worked at The Center for Investigative Reporting until June, 2017. Julia B. Chan is a producer and the digital editor for Reveal's national public radio program. She’s the voice of Reveal online and manages the production and curation of digital story assets that are sent to more than 200 stations across the country. Previously, Chan helped The Center for Investigative Reporting launch YouTube’s first investigative news channel, The I Files, and led engagement strategies – online and off – for multimedia projects. She oversaw communications, worked to better connect CIR’s work with a bigger audience and developed creative content and collaborations to garner conversation and impact.

Before joining CIR, Chan worked as a Web editor and reporter at the San Francisco Examiner. She managed the newspaper’s digital strategy and orchestrated its first foray into social media and online engagement. A rare San Francisco native, she studied broadcasting at San Francisco State University, focusing on audio production and recording. Chan is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.