Authorities say the body was found at 10:13 a.m. at the Cecil Hotel at 640 S. Main St. when a maintenance worker was checking the water tank. There had been complaints about a drop in water pressure.
The hotel was where Lam, 21, was staying when she vanished. The young Canadian was traveling by herself and staying at the hotel, which is on the edge of Los Angeles' skid row. Investigators said Lam called her parents every day until Jan. 31. Her parents haven't heard from her since.
A desk clerk and café hostess at the hotel said they remember seeing Lam, but didn't remember seeing her with anyone. The last people known to have seen Lam are hotel staff.
"The water tank above has a separate latch, or hatch, on top of it that is not secured by any lock. Anybody could open it, but the roof is secured with an alarm and a lock and a key to the door access," said LAPD Sgt. Rudy Lopez.
Officials say that water tank, along with two others, supplies water to the hotel guests' rooms.
"I was using the water for, you know, washing hands, drinking, brushing my teeth," said hotel guest Annette Suzuki, who was visiting from San Francisco. "I'm really disgusted."
Fire officials say they were told by city health inspectors that the water in the tank contains no biohazards, but they turned the water supply off to the rooms and the rest of the hotel immediately after the discovery of the body.
It's unclear how the body ended up in the water tank. Authorities are not yet calling the case a murder investigation, just a suspicious death case.