ADA – Roberson Oil Company, Inc. was fined $3,693 for violating the Clean Water Act.
Environmental Protection Agency inspectors in October found the company’s oil field production facility, Jesse Hunton Viola Unit, in Pontotoc County had discharged oil field brine into a tributary of Clear Boggy Creek. Brine and salt contaminated water going into the tributary, inspectors said.
In November, the EPA issued the company a cease and desist administrator order. The company was to stop polluting and remove all brine and residual oil from the tributary within 30 days.
A spill of only one gallon of oil can contaminate one million gallons of water, according to the EPA.
More information on federal regulations is available at http://www.epa.gov/oilspill
In a joint project with our counterparts at the Tulsa World, we wrapped up a two-day series today on care homes for the mentally disabled.
You can check out the World‘s version of the series here.
Meanwhile, courts reporter Nolan Clay had an exclusive story Sunday on the possibility that pharmacy shooting defendant Jerome Ersland might have planted evidence at his store:
The discovery of the shell casing brings back up a key dispute in the case: Did the robbers shoot at the pharmacist? The casing could not have come from Ersland’s two guns.
Ersland told police he fired in self-defense because both robbers shot at him. He contends one bullet hit his wrist, breaking his watch. He said he shot Parker again because Parker was getting up after suffering a head wound.
Prosecutors contend Ersland was the only one who fired any shots. Prosecutors also say only one robber, Jevontai Ingram, was armed but Ingram did not shoot. Ingram’s gun was never recovered.
–Toyota’s recall woes have been big news for several weeks now, and the company’s CEO is due to appear before a Congressional committee later this week. The Detroit News has a look at what might be revealed, including internal company memos touting its success with regulators on a prior recall.
–Another recession story came via the New York Times on Sunday. But this one had a twist: a look at the plight of the long-term unemployed across the country.
Many respected orators and philosophers have said that the true test of a great civilization is how it treats its weakest members.
This truism was in the back of all of our minds when we started working with reporters at the Tulsa World to investigate the state of group homes in Oklahoma. But to know this; to publish a piece of journalism– It wasn’t an easy task.
First, there was learning the lingo: “Intermediate Care Facility for the Mentally Retarded,” and “Residential Care Facility” were terms I’d heard but wasn’t too familiar with what they meant. They are the two types of group homes we investigated in the project.
And we really did have a conversation about whether to use the word “retarded” like the state still does. I know this remains a touchy subject for many people. We made our decision to use “mentally disabled” based on Associated Press style guidelines. However, many newspapers continue to use the term “retarded.”
Also, it seemed like it took forever to get a grasp on things. The stacks of files on our desks and voluminous records on our computer hard drives were definitely daunting and time intensive. Sometimes it was frustrating (I’m speaking for myself here). But now we’re starting to see the light at the end of this long and cluttered library of reports and inspections.
From start to completion, the whole project took a little over six months. We literally got to a point when we were so focused on the little details that it was difficult to see the big picture. Was it significant enough to include that residents at some of these homes complained of not having toilet paper? Should we detail in our stories allegations that weren’t substantiated by inspectors but nonetheless raised eyebrows? Do we fault a home for having ants or dust bunnies under beds?
In the end, I think both newspapers settled on different things. What you read in the Tulsa World will be different than what you read in The Oklahoman, but only because there was so much information that the choices were difficult to make. None of the choices are better or worse, just different.
But make no mistake; this was a joint project–One that required the eyes, minds, patience and perseverance of about a dozen reporters and editors at newsrooms in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
In the end, I’m sure I can speak for everyone when I say this is what investigative journalism is all about. Getting those records, scouring them and shining the light of day on things that otherwise might have been obscured.
The Oklahoman will publish the Oklahoma Group Homes project on Feb. 21 and 22 and online at www.newsok.com.
I’m researching for an upcoming story, and thought I wouldn’t wait to share this info.
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services keeps an online list of daycares and their inspection records. You can search by facility name, area or star rating and see how well the daycare is doing. The records note any complaints, annual inspection deficiencies and contact information for the director.
It’s cold and windy this morning outside OPUBCO HQ, but at least the sun is shining. Here’s what you might have missed over the weekend:
–Watchdog reporter Randy Ellis got a tip recently that illegal immigrants were working on Vance Air Force Base in Enid. He checked it out, and it turned into an interesting story about who is allowed on base in the post-9/11 era. You can read more here.
–In case you needed more evidence of just how serious the state budget crisis is, Sonya Colberg took a look at how cuts are affecting mental health treatment centers.
–The Dallas Morning News took a look at the murky accusations between competing Amazon fishing tour operators, including one based in the Dallas area. Allegations of sex tourism and underage Brazilian girls taken on the fishing trips are still being investigated by authorities, but is it nothing more than bad blood between the tour operators? Far down in the story is a reference to our own governor, whose trial-lawyer friend arranged a 2007 trip with one of the operators, Wet-A-Line. It should be noted that nothing has tied Gov. Henry’s trip to any of the accusations that the Dallas paper raised:
According to e-mails provided to The News by a third party, Marsteller has maintained a steady and zealous campaign with U.S. authorities, peppering them with information on Wet-A-Line. Some people have been surprised to learn that their names have turned up in Marsteller’s correspondence, such as the governor of Oklahoma.
A Marsteller e-mail to an agent for Immigration and Customs Enforcement noted that Gov. Brad Henry and his party of 22 had been Wet-A-Line clients in Brazil.
Henry took a trip in September 2007 with aides, friends and lawyers. Paul Sund, the governor’s spokesman, said a friend of the governor arranged the trip.
No one has said that the governor or anyone in his entourage engaged in illicit activities on this trip.
State police investigators made advance inquiries with Brazilian authorities and the U.S. Embassy about Wet-A-Line, Sund said. “Nobody raised a red flag or said, ‘Watch out, this guy may be under investigation,’ ” Sund said.
Only after their trip, Sund said, did the governor’s office learn of Marsteller’s accusations against Wet-A-Line. “It was a big shock to us,” he said.
–After a year of stories looking into alleged cheating on Georgia’s standardized tests by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, state officials have admitted that there is a problem. An analysis of erasure marks on test booklets could point to systematic cheating in almost one-fifth of the state’s school districts.
–A federal database that is supposed to track the disciplinary records of hundreds of thousands of health care workers is incomplete. Hospitals were expected to start using the database in March, but the missing information may hinder the efforts to perform thorough background checks. The revelations come from a joint investigation by ProPublica and the Los Angeles Times.
Happy Monday to you from OPUBCO HQ, where we can barely see out of the windows because of the snow.
We’re debuting a weekly feature today on the Watchdog blog, our Weekend Rewind. Each Monday, we’ll bring you the highlights and links you might have missed over the weekend, as well as a few links to other investigations and stories that caught our eyes.
–Watchdog reporter Sonya Colberg has an interesting feature on a man in southern Oklahoma who takes care of the lions at the G.W. Exotic Animal Park. Check out the nDepth feature here.
–Vallery Brown has a look at the money-making possibilities of housing federal immigration inmates at the Oklahoma County Jail.
–Our Capitol Bureau detailed the number of lawmakers turned lobbyists at the statehouse, as well as calls for a waiting period to be instituted.
–The science is unsettled, but Oklahoma health officials are keeping an eye the research behind the chemical BPA in everything from soup cans to plastic bottles.
–The Wall Street Journal takes a look at the risks and rewards of investing in the life insurance policies of other people. (In a related note, officials at Oklahoma State University recently sued an insurance company for its claims about OSU Athletics’ “Gift of a Lifetime” program.)
–The New York Times detailed the bizarre story of a West Texas prosecutor who filed criminal charges against a nurse for blowing the whistle on a local doctor to the state medical board.
–If you’re curious about crime statistics, the NYT also has a story about new research into claims that some NYPD officials were “juicing” the stats to make crime incidents appear less severe than they were.
If you see anything that we missed that you think was noteworthy, send us a link and let us know.