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 "hazardous waste" ...

  • 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.
  • Bombs In Your Backyard

    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.
  • Hazardous Waste Regulation Challenges in California

    Despite a number of organizations overseeing the metal shredding industry, regulators have struggled to be effective in their efforts, possibly jeopardizing environmental and societal health. A deep dive into the Sims Recycling Plant in Silicon Valley uncovered decades of violations and millions of dollars of fines. And the failure to effectively police these plants are hurting local residents: in late 2013, the San Francisco Peninsula was engulfed in noxious black smoke when fires broke out at the facility.
  • 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.
  • Failures in the Golden State

    The Department of Toxic Substances Control oversees or has some part in regulating everything from nail polish ingredients to oil refineries, radioactive waste to metal recycling in California. At the heart of our series is the story of a department that’s divided, dysfunctional, and ineffective in fulfilling its mission to protect public health and the environment of the Golden State. We sifted through hundreds of pages of reports, memos, reviews, manifests and legal claims. We also analyzed thousands of records in the department’s hazardous waste tracking system to find out that more than 40% of the hazardous waste manifests in the DTSC’s database contain inaccurate information or are missing key details. Our reporting has held leaders accountable at the DTSC and compelled state lawmakers to call for an investigation of the department, including a legislative hearing this month (January 2014). Through a series of public records requests, we found out some of the department’s top leaders were investing in companies the DTSC oversees. Our reporting into the potential financial conflicts of interest prompted an investigation into deputy director Odette Madriago by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). Ms. Madriago resigned from her position six weeks after our report aired. The FPPC investigation remains ongoing.
  • Brownfield Cleanups

    An investigation into a Missouri incentive program for brownfield redevelopment found that for several years, an environmental firm and major political donor was hired for all taxpayer-funded cleanups without public competitive bidding, and was typically allowed to operate as consultant and contractor. For the taxpayer-funded cleanup of an abandoned mall near St. Louis, the firm vastly overestimated quantities of hazardous waste, helping the developer secure more than $7 million in brownfield tax credits, and hired itself for the job. The firm told the state it was the low bidder for asbestos removal even though one of the bids came in lower. The program is now under investigation by the state auditor, and the state has delayed issuing the tax credit and reduced the maximum amount that could be paid by $288,000.
  • Fly Ash: Coal-Fired Dilemma

    This series of stories showed how a virtually unknown state environmental policy, blessed by the EPA, let developers sculpt an 18-hole golf course with 1.5 million tons of "fly ash," a contaminant-laden residue left from the burning of coal for electricity, posing a threat to the wells of adjacent homeowners. Fly ash contains heavy metals such as arsenic, lead and mercury, which can pose environmental threats through air and water. Although the EPA has been studying the the environmental;ecological impacts of fly ash for decades, it has twice determined that it doesn't warrant classification as "hazardous waste." The result is that there are no national guidelines for fly ash disposal; regulation is left up to the states, resulting in a hodge-podge of policies.
  • Wasting Away: Superfund's Toxic Legacy

    An analysis of the EPA's Superfund program listing nearly 100 companies responsible for more than 40 percent of America’s most contaminated sites. Since the Superfund’s creation in 1980, of the 700 sites less than one in five have been cleaned up or removed from the list. From 1998 to 2005, the companies spent more than $1 billion lobbying to the federal government and contributed more than $120 million to federal campaigns.
  • Public Pays for Toxic Trails

    Reporters Sarah Ruby and James Burger look into the reason why California's Kern County has so many toxic waste dumps. They found that many companies came to the county as recycling companies in recent decades, promising to turn hazardous waste into road base or other useful things. Instead, they made toxic dump piles. The Kern County Health Department had turned a blind eye to these activities, trying to "work" with the companies, but this strategy failed. BY the time the state had to step in to try to solve the problem, the culpable companies were gone, and taxpayers had to foot the cleanup bill.
  • California's Dirty Secret

    The authors investigated environmental laws in California and Arizona that were making it possible for companies from CA to dump hazardous waste in AZ. The investigation also found that some of the dumping areas of hazardous waste were near to schools and day care centers. The authors also reviewed the developmental impact of hazardous waste in the environment can have on children.