The best thing about local newspapers is that they expose corruption and other wrongdoing that otherwise would be hidden from the public.

A side benefit is that we archive our stories and photos as a “first draft of history.” In a city where the past seems perpetually prologue, old clips and pics lend invaluable perspective to present problems. A press conference held on June 8, 2016, is a prime example.

Scranton School District officials gathered to inform the public that eight water fountains and 11 sinks at eight schools were shut down after tests showed elevated lead levels in the water. Then-Superintendent Alexis Kirijan, Ed.D., Director Jim Timlin; School Board President Bob Sheridan and then Chief Operations Officer Jeff Brazil, posed for the cameras with Joe Guzek, owner of Guzek Associates.

The Clarks Summit-based firm tested about 400 faucets and fountains in early morning, before any water was used in the buildings. Because the water sat in the pipes overnight, any lead contamination would be highest then, Guzek said.

The “vast majority” of samples showed no lead, but some required immediate action, he said.

Sheridan assured the public that the board and administration was on top of the problem.

“Our No. 1 concern is with the safety of our students and our staff,” he said

Four years later, Education Reporter Sarah Hofius Hall reported this on the front page of Wednesday’s Times-Tribune:

Environmental consultants urged the Scranton School District to shut off more than two dozen faucets and drinking fountains a year ago because of unsafe lead levels.
In some instances, the tainted water continued to flow.
A Times-Tribune review of environmental reports on Tuesday shows a lack of action by district personnel after 2018 water tests. Reports received by the district last week reveal that officials neglected to fix all of the problems. At least one instance dates back to an initial round of testing in 2016.

So much for immediate action. Read Sarah’s story here. Subscribe here.

The growing scandal is another example of this local newspaper using tools like the Right to Know Law to expose corruption and other wrongdoing that otherwise would be hidden from the public. There is much more coverage to come, so stick with us as we do the work only a local newspaper can do.

Subscribe today and get access to our digital archives, where I found this photo and fodder for a blog. History is happening. Get with it or get left behind.