Officials in Olympia, D.C. ducked opportunities to protect students from traffic pollution

Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way, Wash.
Credit: KING 5

In spite of the substantial evidence of air-pollution risks to children who attend schools near large roadways — including lung problems, asthma attacks and heightened absenteeism — policymakers at both the state and federal levels ducked the issue in recent years, records and interviews show.

The risks were squarely presented. At about the same time in 2008 and 2009, independent groups of officials meeting in Olympia and Washington, D.C., considered and then rejected the notion of banning or severely restricting construction of schools inside the pollution plume emanating up to 500 feet from major roadways.

That lack of action means schools in Washington and across the country continue to be built near the nation’s biggest and busiest roads, despite compelling evidence that roadway pollution can set kids’ health back for life.

“It’s common sense, you’d think that common sense would prevail,” said Steve Fischbach, a Rhode Island lawyer who advised the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the federal process. “But the number of bad examples shows us that poor siting decisions still go on.”


Document: Department of Health Preliminary Cost-Benefit Analysis Summary


Document: Washington Board of Health Briefing Paper on Site Assessment


Document: Washington Board of Health Meeting Notes for April 15, 2008


Document: Salmon Creek Elementary School Environmental Review


Document: School Rule Revision Team Draft 03-31-08


Document: 2006 Report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


IW leader named one of Seattle's "most influential" people for 2013


Each year Seattle Magazine puts together its list of Seattle's "most influential" people, a who's who of innovative thinkers, trendsetters and other influencers in the Emerald City. This year, InvestigateWest executive director and co-founder Robert McClure is on that list.

“Even the folks who have been forced by his stories to clean up their act admit this guy is nothing if not fair,” the magazine writes of McClure, “a modest, Northwest version of Clark Kent in a post-Post-Intelligencer world.”

Under McClure's leadership, InvestigateWest has won 10 awards in 2013 for its investigative and enterprise reporting, including two national industry honors. Its innovative studio model for investigative journalism is being used in classrooms across the country, after the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism published a case study on the Seattle newsroom earlier this year.

“It's great fun to be listed next to Russell Wilson, but most of all I'm glad that InvestigateWest's record of accomplishment is in the pages of Seattle Magazine for the community to see,” McClure said. “Journalism is changing. But the power of journalism to hold people to account,  to connect the dots, and to uncover secrets is needed more than ever.”