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 "disposal" ...

  • Bombs In Your Backyard: Investigating One of America’s Greatest Polluters

    The military might of the United States has come at an extraordinary environmental price. The nation’s defense technologies and armaments have been developed, tested, stored, decommissioned and disposed of on vast tracts of American soil, where they have polluted fields and rivers, contaminated drinking water and put legions of people’s health at risk. For the first time, this project examined the full extent of the damage — 39,000 sites adding up to an area larger than the state of Florida, affecting millions of people. Our stories exposed the Pentagon’s routine practice of open burning of hazardous waste; its reliance on incompetent or fraudulent contractors that dump waste or fake cleanups; its four-decade campaign to make a dangerous and pervasive chemical explosive appear safe and avoid regulation; and its explicit refusal to comply with federal environmental laws even when the exposure of young children to lead poisoning from munition was at stake. We gained exclusive access to the Pentagon’s complete environmental dataset, and created a news application which for the first time mapped searchable data about contaminated sites across U.S. territories.
  • Noncompliant Hazardous Waste Facility

    A facility that handles hazardous wastes - including chemicals from auto repair shops, industrial plants and paint stores - before they're moved to permanent disposal sites has operated without a permit because of failures of the city and the company's owners.
  • The Clerk’s Files

    When Watchdog City began these stories as an outgrowth of beat reporting on county government, they had no idea it would lead to filing a lawsuit that successfully challenged high public records fees and produced a favorable ruling after a hard-fought trial in June 2014. With unlimited taxpayer funds at his disposal to spend on legal fees, the county’s elected auditor and accountant — the Clerk of Courts — has since appealed the circuit judge’s ruling in my favor. The case is now on its way to Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal.
  • Eternal Harvest: The Legacy of American Bombs in Laos

    Between 1964 and 1973, in an offshoot of the Vietnam War, the U.S. military dropped 4 billion pounds of explosives on Laos. Up to 30 percent of those bombs did not detonate, and they remain in the Laotian soil today as UXO—unexploded ordnance—contaminating more than one-third of surface area of the country. Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and injured in UXO accidents since the war officially ended. 2014 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the start of that bombing campaign. Yet every week, more Laotians are hurt and killed. In a rural country largely composed of subsistence farmers, it is dangerous to dig. Coates and Redfern spent more than seven years traveling in Laos, talking to farmers, scrap-metal hunters, people who make and use tools from UXO, and the bomb-disposal teams working to render the land harmless. With their words and photographs, they reveal the beauty of Laos, the strength of Laotians, and the daunting scope of the problem - a problem largely unknown outside the country. Much of the American bombing campaign was carried out in secret, known only to pilots, policy makers and the people on the ground under the flight paths. Coates and Redfern aim to educate readers—especially Americans—about this little-known war and its lesser-known legacy, at a time when Americans are learning about their government's recent efforts to operate in secrecy. Eternal Harvest offers a critical look at the effects on civilians of secret military actions.
  • Eternal Harvest: The Legacy of American Bombs in Laos

    Between 1964 and 1973, in an offshoot of the Vietnam War, the U.S. military dropped 4 billion pounds of explosives on Laos. Up to 30 percent of those bombs did not detonate, and they remain in the Laotian soil today as UXO—unexploded ordnance—contaminating more than one-third of surface area of the country. Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and injured in UXO accidents since the war officially ended. 2014 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the start of that bombing campaign. Yet every week, more Laotians are hurt and killed. In a rural country largely composed of subsistence farmers, it is dangerous to dig. Coates and Redfern spent more than seven years traveling in Laos, talking to farmers, scrap-metal hunters, people who make and use tools from UXO, and the bomb-disposal teams working to render the land harmless. With their words and photographs, they reveal the beauty of Laos, the strength of Laotians, and the daunting scope of the problem - a problem largely unknown outside the country. Much of the American bombing campaign was carried out in secret, known only to pilots, policy makers and the people on the ground under the flight paths. Coates and Redfern aim to educate readers—especially Americans—about this little-known war and its lesser-known legacy, at a time when Americans are learning about their government's recent efforts to operate in secrecy. Eternal Harvest offers a critical look at the effects on civilians of secret military actions.
  • Waste Lands

    Today, they have long been converted into parks, office buildings and even hiking trails. But in a remarkable investigation, two of our most intrepid reporters discovered that in these places once stood factories and research centers that the government pressed into service to produce nuclear weapons. A yearlong effort resulted in revelations about what happened to the atomic waste from these facilities and a first-of-its-kind online historical database on more than 500 sites. The government, primarily the Energy Department, has for years assured the public the waste is being cleaned up efficiently and with no harm to anyone. It plans to have spent an estimated $350 billion before the work is done. But despite all this funding, as reporters John Emshwiller and Jeremy Singer-Vine discovered, the government hasn’t been able to find even the exact address of some of these facilities. Records on other sites are so spotty no real determination can be made on the next step. And 20 of the sites that were initially declared safe have required a second, and sometimes third, cleanup over the years. Thanks to an effort that married 21st-century Internet analysis with old-fashioned reporting, online readers can now enter their ZIP Code to get a full history of any site near them. The detail of this database—including hundreds of documents, corporate photos of factories and interviews with current property owners, most of whom had no idea of their property’s Cold War legacy—makes for helpful and at times alarming reading. Not surprisingly, almost a half a million online hits were recorded in the first weeks after our project, called Waste Lands, was published.
  • Injection Wells - The Hidden Risks of Pumping Waste Underground

    Over the last several decades, U.S. industries have dumped more than 30 trillion gallons of toxic waste – a volume roughly four times that of Utah’s Great Salt Lake -- into injection wells deep beneath the earth’s surface. These wells epitomize the notion of out of sight, out of mind, entombing chemicals too dangerous to discard in rivers or soil. The Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for overseeing this invisible disposal system, setting standards that, above all, are supposed to safeguard sources of drinking water at a time when water has become increasingly precious. Abrahm Lustgarten’s series, “Injection Wells: the Hidden Risks of Pumping Waste Underground,” lays out in frightening detail just how far short regulators have fallen in carrying out that mission. His analysis of hundreds of thousands of inspection records showed that wells often fail mechanical integrity tests meant to ensure contaminants aren’t leaking into water supplies and that companies repeatedly violate basic rules for safe disposal. EPA efforts to strengthen regulation of underground injection have been stymied time and again by the oil and gas industry, among the primary users of disposal wells. As the number of wells for drilling waste has grown to more than 150,000 nationwide, regulators haven’t kept pace, leaving gaps that have led to catastrophic breakdowns. And Lustgarten’s most surprising finding was that the EPA has knowingly permitted the energy industry to pollute underground reservoirs, handing out more than 1,500 “exemptions” allowing companies to inject waste and other chemicals into drinking water aquifers.
  • Seattle Police:Vanishing Videos

    This story began as a relatively simple venture; how to get copies of police dashboard camera videos to provide watchdog oversight of a police department facing growing criticism. It grew into a major expose of questionable police tactics and a battle for public access to critical public records that is currently before the state Supreme Court. Over the course of a year and a half, KOMO TV’s fight for videos and the video database became a game of strategy and attrition as the Seattle Police Department denied us access to public records at every opportunity. We tried every means at our disposal to get these records including direct appeals to elected officials. Finally, with no other recourse, KOMO TV sued the SPD and the city of Seattle. Only then did we make our fight for these records public. What followed in 2012 was a cascade of stories; people coming forward alleging police misconduct and an attempt to hide the videos that would tell the truth. In addition to KOMO TV’s public records lawsuit, our investigation has prompted state legislators and other open records advocates to pursue changes in state law to ensure these records can no longer stay hidden.
  • "Cruise Ships Dodge Rules"

    This investigation takes a look at the claims of cruise ships boasting "green" cruising and whether or not it can truly reduce the "impact on the environment." Despite the claims, reporters found that ships are playing the system and continue to dump harmful waste along their cruise routes, in areas where the rules are "less stringent."
  • Recycled Radiation

    Radioactive materials are being found in common consumer items because radioactive devices used in manufacturing and medicine are often mixing with scrap metal for use in large varieties of other products. "Recycled Radiation" outlines the findings from the Nuclear Material Events Database.