KHOU 11 News Special Investigation. [2011-09-09], A Matter Of Risk: Radiation, Drinking Water, and Deception

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Created: 2011


KHOU 11 News Special Investigation. [2011-09-09], A Matter Of Risk: Radiation, Drinking Water, and Deception
Summary: "'A Matter of Risk: Radiation, Drinking Water, and Deception'
You probably use it every day and you probably think it's relatively safe. But imagine if your home's tap water:
  • would turn your plumbing into metal considered 'too hot' for scrap yards to recycle, while the radiation would set off Geiger counters.
  • released a dangerous gas whenever you took a shower or ran a dishwasher.
  • exposed you to an added 1 in 400 chance of cancer just by regularly drinking it.

"And imagine if the people who were supposed to protect you from this situation not only knew about it and failed to do much of anything, but instead spent decades covering it up.

"That's exactly what the KHOU I-team discovered to be the case for half a million and more Texans during its twelve month investigation into the quality of the state's drinking water. Their other findings also include:

  • A particularly risky and destructive form of naturally-produced radiation, prevalent in the drinking water of many Texas communities, often in amounts far more than allowed by U.S. water standards.
  • In some areas of the state, the public water was so contaminated with radioactive elements that the states own scientists found it posed a 'serious health threat' yet Texas officials did nothing.
  • In reporting to the public, not only did the state's environmental agency minimize the risk this sort of radiation posed, but for years the agency actually falsified the results of its water radiation tests, tests that every community and utility in Texas relies on to know if its drinking water is safe. The amounts reported were ALWAYS wrongfully changed, sometimes lowered by as much as 50 percent. Despite being ordered by the federal government to halt the practice, state officials continued doing it with the quiet consent of Governor Rick Perry.
  • Flawed U.S. EPA policies mean communities across Texas and the country do not know how much radiation exposure they could be getting from their tap water. In fact, top health scientists believe it is much higher than anyone has imagined.

"In the end, all of the I-team's work resulted in changes:

  • A number of Texas cities, including Houston, shut down and permanently sealed many of the wells producing radioactive water.
  • Citizens across the state held town hall meetings about the contamination they now knew was in their water. Many of them have since outfitted their homes with filters that can reduce the problem.
  • The E.P.A. retracted mistakes in its science and public policy discovered by KHOU. It also launched an investigation into the health risks from radioactive plumbing along with a formal internal discussion about revising the amounts of radiation it allows in the nation's drinking water."--2011 Peabody Awards entry form.

Corporate Producers: KHOU-TV (Television station : Houston, Tex.)

Persons Appearing: Mark Greenblatt (Reporter)

Broadcast Date: 2011-09-09