Poisoned

Hillsborough County had the highest number of adult lead poisonings in all of Florida. Reporters from the Tampa Bay Times set out to discover why. They interviewed more than 100 current and former employees at a local battery recycling plant suspected to be the cause. Johnson, Woolington and Murray gathered over 100,000 pages of documents and hundreds of photos and videos from employees that showed the perilous conditions inside the factory. They even became certified lead inspectors as they exposed how the factory had contaminated the surrounding community. After the initial parts of the series ran, OSHA sent inspectors into the plant for the first time in five years, confirmed the Times’ reporting, and issued one of the steepest fines in recent Florida history. Local children were screened for lead, and county regulators increased monitoring and oversight of the company, which also saw its credit rating downgraded and was driven to improve its safety systems. The Times’ project was supported by PBS FRONTLINE’s Local Journalism Initiative, which provided partial funding and consultation.