Journalist Michael Gartland incited the wrath of concerned parents in Paramus, NJ, when he reported in late May in the Bergen Record that soil at a local middle school was contaminated with pesticides at levels 39 times greater than the state's safety guidelines. What's more, school district officials had known about the pesticides since January, but failed to inform the public — and failed to fix the problem.
As a result of Gartland's work, the state and city re-tested the school’s soil and found pesticide amounts exceeding 160 times the safe level. Superintendent Janice Dime is enjoying an indefinite period of leave, the contractor responsible for removing the contaminated soil has been fired, and authorities have promised to clean up West Brook Middle School.
Paramus authorities aren't exactly thanking Gartland for his public service, however. The reporter was arrested for trespassing on June 2, when he removed soil from the school’s grounds for independent testing, and police confiscated the soil samples. Gartland, who faces arraignment on June 27, contends that such newsgathering is protected under the Privacy Protection Act of 1980.