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Decades after the dangers of lead became clear, some cities are leaving lead pipe in the ground

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Reporter Mike Phillis, data journalist Camille Fassett and photographer Charles Krupa applied data work and old-fashioned reporting to reveal how officials allow successive waves of young children to be harmed by lead, by leaving lead pipes in the ground when they already have pipes dug up for water main work. 

Phillis got a tip from a source, talked to experts, and knocked on dozens of doors in Providence, Rhode Island, to find people willing to make the story personal. Photographer Charles Krupa found important moments in people’s homes and made images of the rarely seen pure lead pipe that we hear about. 

Several experts did exclusive calculations allowing Phillis to describe the scale of the issue: hundreds of thousands of instances. Phillis also found the practice continues in other major cities, like St. Louis and Memphis. Fassett combed through thousands of samples in Chicago to explain that compliance with weak federal lead regulations left many people still exposed to lead. An EPA whistleblower who hadn’t spoken with the press in years talked to the AP after Mike reached out through other sources multiple times.

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