The USA TODAY reporting team worked with academic researchers to pool government data on industrial polluters near 127,800 schools. What they found was incredible -- in thousands of schools, the models indicated that the air outside could be at least twice as toxic as the air in nearby neighborhoods. In some cases, the difference reached 10 times higher.
Toxic Legacy web site In its 35 years of operation, Ford’s Mahwah, N.J., automobile-assembly plant, the nation’s largest, turned out six-million vehicles. It also produced something far more enduring, The Record revealed: millions of gallons of toxic paint sludge carrying lead, arsenic and other dangerous containments, some at 100 times allowable levels.
It is this “Toxic Legacy” that the newspaper uncovers and explores in its ambitious series. Ten journalists spent eight months investigating the actions of Ford, government officials and even the Mob in exposing residents of the woodlands of northern New Jersey – many of them low-income Native Americans – to these dangers. Today, those residents are plagued by cancer, asthma and rashes at extremely elevated rates. The water supply for one-fourth of New Jersey’s population is threatened by Ford’s sludge.
As a result of The Record’s reporting, state and federal governments are conducting a massive cleanup of the area. The Record’s “Toxic Legacy” series is environmental-watchdog reporting of the highest order, marked by exhaustive reporting, stellar writing, and an innovative multimedia presentation that sets a new standard.
The judges were pleased to find such a worthy recipient for the very first Grantham Prize for Excellence in Reporting on the Environment.
The Record’s Toxic Legacy team (from left to right, back to front)= Back row: Barbara Williams, Tim Nostrand, Tom Troncone, Mary Jo Layton. Front row: Lindy Washburn, Jan Barry, Alex Nussbaum, Debra Lynn Vial. Up front: Thomas E. Franklin.