I traveled to the small community of Picher, Oklahoma in late 2000 to cover a "run-of-the-mill" general assignment story. I had passed through the tiny Ottawa County town several times at night as a college student, back when rumors abounded of the supposedly "devil-worshipping," dangerous people who lived in Picher. When I returned in 2000 as an adult with children of my own, I was so flabbergasted by what I saw in what was then the largest Superfund site in the United States. I begged my news director to allow me to tell the story of Picher, Oklahoma. To his credit, he gave me generous time to research and, more importantly, show and tell viewers about the travesty against the people and the land by mining companies, politicians and remediation contractors.
The following three-part series brought unprecedented attention to the Tar Creek Superfund site, and I believe played a major role in the eventual buyout and shut-down of the former lead and zinc mining mecca that sat atop the nation's Superfund list for more than 20 years.
The following stories are the most important work I have ever done.
Part 1: Poisonous Playground
Part 2: Caving In
Part 3: Political Morass - Your Money Pit
I investigated a school in northeastern Oklahoma after numerous students and parents complained about school administrators' handling of the remediation of dangerous mold. The investigation grew into a series of stories that literally could have gone on every day for a year. After the first story, I received more calls about toxic mold than any other subject on which I reported. Co-workers in the KOTV newsroom started calling me "Toxic Tami" because of this series and the one that followed, "Beneath It All."