Winner 2004

Chesapeake Bay Pollution Investigation


This investigation by WBAL-TV writer/reporter John Sherman still continues. The story, centered on spillage of raw sewage into creeks and streams feeding into the Chesapeake Bay, was an eye-opener for the citizens of Centreville, Maryland, and neighboring towns. Based on a lead from a concerned citizen, WBAL discovered that a sewage treatment plant, operated by Centreville’s own town manager, was leaking up to hundreds of thousands of gallons of untreated sewage into the bay. Evidence of this leakage was falsified by plant documents and the public was completely unaware of the unethical mix of local business and local politics. Key to the story, however, is the drive for real estate development common in many other areas. Plans for new housing developments around Centreville would severely increase strains on the existing treatment plant, but also increase profits for many involved in city politics. This aspect of the story was discovered by Sherman and his team to be the main motivation for the cover-up. WBAL’s efforts in revealing this story helped put rampant housing development on hold, attracted attention from the Environmental Protection Agency, and influenced the removal of government officials who were putting the health of their own citizens at severe risk. Sherman was assisted by news director Michelle Butt, executive producer Casey Clark, producer Michele Leiberman, and photographers John Cassini, John Brosnan, Beau Kershaw, Greg Marsh, Pat Bourque, Marty Jenoff, and Bob Lyon. For precise reporting of a critical local issue WBAL’s Chesapeake Bay Pollution Investigation receives a Peabody Award.