A nationwide investigation that exposed the prevalence of lead contamination in drinking water has been honoured by the Canadian Association of Journalists.
Tainted Water received the group’s award for data journalism during a ceremony hosted via Zoom on Saturday.
The series was produced by the Institute for Investigative Journalism (IIJ) at Concordia University, along with Global News and outlets such as Le Devoir, the Toronto Star, the Regina Leader-Post and the National Observer.
“We are incredibly honoured to be recognized alongside our partners and the IIJ with such a prestigious award,” said Chris Bassett, Global News’ national director for content and editorial standards.
“This series had an immediate impact across the country and was a collaborative effort supported by many outstanding journalists across the country to expose an issue impacting the health and safety of thousands of Canadians.”
In total, more than 120 reporters were involved in the project, which was published and broadcast during the fall. More than 220 hours of interviews were recorded by members of the consortium and the journalists filed over 700 access-to-information requests.
The investigation found that, out of 12,000 tests conducted by 11 cities, 33 per cent exceeded safe lead levels as defined by Health Canada.
The findings sparked immediate action from leaders. In Quebec, the government announced it would adopt stronger standards for acceptable lead content, in line with Health Canada guidelines. The mayor of Montreal vowed to test the water at more than 100,000 homes and accelerate a program for replacing lead pipes.
Halifax extended an offer to replace lead pipes on private property for free. And in Alberta, at least 50 school divisions contacted the provincial health authority asking for support or information regarding lead testing in the weeks following the investigation.