Lead poisoning probe tops reader poll

Dan Telvock’s reporting on Buffalo’s slipshod methods for testing drinking water for lead was voted by readers as Investigative Post’s top story of 2016.

Looking for lead (in all the wrong places) edged out an investigation by Charlotte Keith into the awarding of a Buffalo Billion contract whose dynamics that bore a striking resemblance to the SolarCity factory deal that resulted in the filing of federal corruption charges.

Between them, the two stories garnered 60 percent of the votes cast by readers. The best of the rest, according to voters, was Daniela Porat’s story about the inadequate training of Buffalo police in tactics being used to a growing degree in other cities to avoid Ferguson-type situations.

Which was your favorite story of 2016?

  • Looking for lead (in all the wrong places) (33%, 40 Votes)
  • Second Buffalo Billion deal benefits Ciminelli (27%, 33 Votes)
  • Tempting a Ferguson in Buffalo (9%, 11 Votes)
  • Landfill with Love Canal legacy still poses danger (8%, 10 Votes)
  • Lead poisoning worse then previously disclosed (7%, 8 Votes)
  • Radioactive hotspots pepper Niagara County (5%, 6 Votes)
  • More dubious Buffalo Billion dealings (4%, 5 Votes)
  • Buffalo trade unions lacking in diversity (2%, 3 Votes)
  • SolarCity slashes Buffalo job commitments (2%, 3 Votes)
  • Buffalo Billion program at Daemen struggles (2%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 121

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Telvock’s reporting found the city’s testing program used to determine whether drinking water is safe did not target the minority neighborhoods where Buffalo’s lead poisoning problem is concentrated. What’s more, up to a quarter of the homes sampled in 2014 belonged to current or former city employees or their family members. Telvock also reported the Erie County Health Department rarely tests drinking water for lead in homes where a child has been diagnosed with a high blood-lead level.

City officials responded by overhauling the testing program.

Charlotte Keith’s story detailed the dynamics of the deal in which a state development agency contracted with LPCiminelli to build office space to house Albany Molecular Research Inc. at the Conventus building. Her reporting found parallels between that deal and the arrangement, now the subject of federal prosecution, that awarded work to LPCiminelli to build a factory for SolarCity in South Buffalo.

This marks the fourth consecutive year Telvock’s reporting was voted top story by readers. Previous winners included his story last year into the checkered history of Greenleaf and Co., one of the city’s biggest landlords. Pollution choking  Scajaquada Creek was voted the winner in 2014; his coverage of Gallagher Beach won top honors in 2013.

Telvock’s environmental coverage is underwritten in part by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo.

Telvock’s work was recognized for excellence last year by the Society of Environmental Journalists and the New York State Associated Press Broadcasters Association. Charlotte Keith, meanwhile, was recognized by Livingston Awards for Young Journalists and the New York State Association of Black Journalists.

Investigative Post is a nonprofit investigative reporting center based in Buffalo. It produces and distributes its work in partnership with WGRZ TV, 2 On Your Side, the NBC affiliate for Buffalo; WBFO, Buffalo’s NPR News Station; The Capitol Pressroom, heard on 20 public radio stations around the state, including WBFO, and The Public, WNY’s alternative newsweekly.