I’m no expert on water or politics but I do know when something’s not straight. I can also add and subtract.
For anyone who has running water, pays taxes, and has children — you might want to take a listen to Mark Greenblatt’s exhaustive KHOU report: A Matter of Risk: Drinking Water, Radiation and Deception.
From the get go, the program got my attention.
“You rely on it. To drink, to wash, to live. It’s water that may contain something you didn’t expect."
The one-hour special opened with anchors Greg Hurst and Len Cannon outlining what the viewer’s about to see: “That in many Texas communities the drinking water is contaminated with radiation.”
They make it clear that KHOU’s purpose is “not to alarm you but to inform you, the public, about a health risk you may have been exposed to. A risk you have a right to know about and understand.” Bingo!
From there, Mark Greenblatt delivers.
The subject is complex to say the least, but Greenblatt does a superb job in separating it all out and navigating you through it in five parts. If you go online to khou.com, you can view each one, but I sure recommend viewing the program in its entirety.
Part 1 – Central Texas: Water So Contaminated It Makes Plumbing Radioactive
Part 2 – Texas Officials Hid Amount of Radiation in Public’s Water
Part 3 – Houston: Water Under the Federal Radiation Limit, But Still A Risk
Part 4 – The U.S. EPA: What It isn’t Telling You About Radiation In Your Water
Part 5 – Changes and Reactions: How Citizens and Local Government Responded to Our Reporting
Greenblatt begins in Brady, Texas where 5-year-old pipes, dug up from the soil, were found to be radioactive. He shows you how they got this way from the drinking water running through these pipes. He explained stuff like radium, radon gas, and alpha particles. This is only the beginning of a detailed, documented account of an investigative journey that ultimately brings Greenblatt home to Houston.
I’m not even going to try to explain what Greenblatt so methodically presents. In the first place, I don’t have his knowledge or skills, but secondly, I don’t have the stomach for politics. Local especially. His work speaks for itself.
As Anderson Cooper would say, “You decide.” I do, however, want to point out what riled me the most.
Putting aside the radiation question, more disturbing was how officials reacted to Greenblatt’s questions. One incident in particular was when Greenblatt was talking with a spokesperson for Houston’s Public Works Department.
If you’ve seen Mark Greenblatt doing his job, then you know he’s not an in your face type of guy. I’ve never met him, but on camera he sure comes across as a mild mannered, matter-of-fact kind of chap. When he posed questions to this spokesman, the spokesman becomes a little radioactive himself. Watch this encounter online and judge for yourself.
As he (the city official) keeps smiling, his anger keeps growing. He leans in toward Greenblatt and repeatedly accuses him of lying, then turns and stomps off.
Enter a Houston police officer, who then ejects Greenblatt from the HALL of city hall, a public place, or so I thought. Altogether, blatant bullyship in my book. Pure and simple. Wish I could say the same about the water and politics.
To be honest, I’m not as interested in who all did what, or how many mayoral administrations have failed to address this problem with Houston water, no telling how many years ago.
As a consumer of Houston water and a tax-paying citizen, I expect the water coming out of my pipes to be clean. By clean, I mean zero radiation and free of any other cancer causing elements. If it’s not, I expect our officials and government leaders to be forthright with the facts and working diligently toward MAKING it clean. I’ll do my part as a citizen to keep it that way but I need our civic leaders to tell me how!
Maybe I’m naïve, but on something as vitally important as water, why did it take a television station investigative News Team to bring this matter to our attention? It’s more than “A Matter of Risk.” It’s a matter of Integrity — from one human being to another.
At the end of this one-hour special I was fuming. Then, as odd as it sounds, a song came into my head and hummed there for days. Remember that little jingle from Best Little Whorehouse in Texas “OOOUUU I love to dance a little sidestep.”
No doubt the subject is complex but I invite every Houstonian to view this special in its entirety, then you decide. As Len Cannon so poignantly expressed in the beginning, you have a right to know and understand.
For me, it stirred up important questions. Like what does this say about our city, our state, ourselves? I guess we’ll find out, or maybe we won’t, but either way, I’m grateful to Mark Greenblatt and KHOU-TV for trying to make Houston a better place.
Thanks Mark. Keep em’ coming.