Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

Most of our stories are not available for download but can be easily ordered by contacting the Resource Center directly at 573-882-3364 or rescntr@ire.org where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

Search results for "air quality" ...

  • The Texas Observer and Grist with The Investigative Fund: Too Big to Fine, Too Small to Fight Back

    Citgo refineries spew thousands of tons of chemicals into the air, degrading air quality and putting human health at risk. Despite Citgo's revenues hitting north of $40 billion, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality lets the company off easy. For her investigation in The Texas Observer, in partnership with Grist and The Investigative Fund, Naveena Sadasivam dug into how the TCEQ has fined corporate polluters $30 million for air violations, not much more than the $24 million imposed on gas stations, a significant percentage of which are owned by immigrants, just for record-keeping errors. The disparity between TCEQ's treatment of mom-and-pop operations versus large corporations favors those with money and power. The agency rarely punishes big polluters, often because of a legal loophole, and when it does levy a fine, lawyers negotiate big reductions in penalties. As a result, environmental advocates and small business owners say there's a fundamental unfairness at work with the way TCEQ treats the businesses it regulates.
  • Up in flames

    This yearlong investigation examined the amount of natural gas flaring in the Eagle Ford shale formation south of San Antonio, and its impact on air quality and the lives of area residents. We were the first publication to use state records to show how much gas was being flared, and how much it was polluting the air. The major findings: the oil field was burning enough gas to fuel all of San Antonio for a full year, and the pollution exceeded that of six large oil refineries in Corpus Christi, Texas. We also found that the state failed to enforce regulations on some of the largest polluters, and that some of the companies flaring the most gas had never applied for permits. The state cited the companies based on our findings.
  • Exhausted at School

    Gaze out the windows of John Marshall Junior High in Seattle and you will see cars and trucks whizzing by on the busiest freeway in the state, Interstate 5. John Marshall is one of 28 public schools and more than 125 day cares that InvestigateWest has found built within 500 feet of Washington’s highest-traffic roadways. That’s close enough to put children’s health at risk, say health researchers. For “Exhausted at School,” InvestigateWest combined data from multiple state agencies and pored over dozens of academic studies to understand the threat of toxic pollution and its effect on kids’ health at school. Our reporting immediately spurred Seattle Schools officials to action: they added a new policy to issue air quality alerts to principals, and announced plans to upgrade a decades-old ventilation system at John Marshall. Officials in Olympia and Washington, D.C., considered and then rejected the notion of banning or severely restricting construction of schools inside the pollution plume, according to interviews and records obtained by InvestigateWest. Meanwhile, state officials do not enforce rules requiring day cares to be built on environmentally safe sites. So schools and day cares continue to be built in the danger zone around freeways, and children pay the price – years after the dangers were conclusively proven. “Exhausted at School” is a collaboration between InvestigateWest and KING 5 Television.
  • C-HIT: Toxic Laundry Emissions

    Industrial laundries in New England have recently come under intense scrutiny by the EPA, ever since the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) found that volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) were being released at a facility in Waterbury, CT. According to Steve Rapp, Chief of the Air Technical Unit, EPA Region 1, the problem is widespread and significant. “The industrial laundries are grossly under-reporting their VOCs,” said Rapp. “It’s a total sleeper.” The problem stems from the process of laundering shop towels, which are often contaminated with toxic solvents. When improperly cleaned, the solvents are vaporized and emitted to the surrounding air. This article investigated this little-known source of air pollution, shedding light on the industry’s practices and its impact on air quality and public health.
  • "The Air We Breathe"

    The people living in and around Pittsburgh are breathing in some of the poorest quality air in the U.S. High levels of Benzene and other harmful chemicals have been found in the air causing potentially serious health risks to residents who inhale the "toxic brew" over a long time period. The Allegheny County Board of Health has "indefinitely postponed" voting on issuing new air quality permits.
  • The CDC, FEMA and formaldehyde

    In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, people who moved into trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency almost immediately complained about the air quality in them. As complaints mounter, FEMA had an agent of the center for Disease Control conduct a test of the formaldehyde found inside the trailers. Joaquin Sapien explains why it took more than two years for the government to admit that formaldehyde levels in many of the trailers were high enough to increase the risk of caner and repiratory illnesses.
  • The Smokestack Effect: Toxic air and America's schools

    The air outside hundreds of schools nationwide appears to be rife with toxic chemicals. Children are as much as 10 times more susceptible to toxic chemicals than are adults.
  • Betrayed

    A former health inspector and environmental health specialist is now permanently disabled because of his exposure to toxic mold at his workplace, the Southern Nevada Health District's Environmental Health Wing, and he's not the only worker affected. Although his employer knew the problem existed (and was serious, as they are the agency that investigates and shuts down mold-infected sites) they fought correcting the situation, refused to re-locate infected workers, and contested their disability claims.
  • In Harm's Way

    The Houston Chronicle funded and conducted a study into air quality at 84 homes and 16 public places in four Southwest Texas communities adjacent to major refineries and/or chemical plants. The newspaper also analyzed more than a decade's worth of air pollution data collected by the state. The effort revealed that residents in this area were being exposed to elevated levels of dangerous and cancer-causing pollutants. Officials were aware of this and some of their own employees charged with monitoring the air were getting sick themselves. The study was able to pinpoint the culprit, adjacent industries.
  • In Harm's Way

    The Houston-Chronicle investigated and tested the air quality in four Texas communities that surrounded some of the state's largest industrial plants. Their tests showed that the plants in these communities were releasing "air toxics" into the air and were thus increasing the resident's risks of kidney and liver damage, along with many other serious heath problems. Furthermore, the Houston-Chronicle found that Texas air regulations are among the most lenient in the country.