The Society of Environmental Journalists announced today that the ProPublica project “Bombs in Our Backyard” is the inaugural winner of its Nina Mason Pulliam Award for Outstanding Environmental Reporting. The new award, which was announced in January and comes with a $10,000 cash prize, recognizes the “best of the best” in environmental journalism and was selected from among the first-place winners of SEJ’s seven award categories.
“Bombs in Our Backyard,” by senior reporter Abrahm Lustgarten, revealed for the first time how the Pentagon’s development and testing of weapons has polluted millions of acres of land and drinking water resources across 40,000 U.S. sites — and how the Pentagon has systematically ignored or downplayed its cleanup responsibilities. The project exposed the open burning of old munitions, the use of contractors to dump hazardous waste into residential neighborhoods, and a decades-long effort to downplay the cancer risks of a common explosive called RDX.
In the course of his reporting, Lustgarten acquired data from the Department of Defense identifying the location and status of all 40,000 polluted sites. News applications developer Lena Groeger; deputy editor, data, Ryann Grochowski Jones; and deputy editor, news applications, Sisi Wei used the material to build “Bombs In Your Backyard,” an interactive news app that lets readers locate and understand the environmental threats lurking in their own neighborhoods.
Lucas Waldron, Ranjani Chakraborty and Ashley Gilbertson also contributed to the project.
Learn more about the Nina Mason Pulliam Award for Outstanding Environmental Reporting here.