Series focused on area’s plight

Thad Allender and Mike Belt set out three years ago to tell the story of how years of mining had affected southeast Kansas.

Allender, then the Journal-World’s director of photography, and Belt, a J-W reporter, were natives of the region, and knew well the environmental fallout from a century of mining lead and zinc.

But what they also found was a large disparity in the way residents of two towns, literally separated by a road and a state line, were being treated.

Picher, Okla., residents were being offered money for their land, after facing exposure to high levels of lead, pollution, groundwater contamination and the threat of cave-ins. But across the street in Treece, Kan., residents felt ignored and neglected.

Allender and Belt investigated the issue in their series “Mining’s Legacy: A Scar on Kansas.”

Through a series of newspaper articles, video interviews, photos, and in-depth coverage online, the two highlighted the magnitude of damage in the area.

For their work, they received the Associated Press Managing Editors’ Convergence Award, recognizing the project as one of the nation’s best pieces of online journalism in 2007.

The series can be found at

The stories also focused attention on Treece’s plight, prompting the Kansas congressional delegation and the federal Environmental Protection Agency to take up the community’s cause.

River City Weekly Producer Brian Powell and Host Greg Hurd were also part of the project. This week’s episode of “River City Weekly” features an update on the situation in Treece. It airs on Sunflower Broadband Channel 6 at 9:30 p.m. Sunday, 9:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Monday, and 10 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Allender joined USA Today in 2008 and Belt died last April.