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Round 2-5a: Community Advisory Groups (CAGs)

Reform Description
A Community Advisory Group (CAG) is a committee, task force, or board comprised of citizens affected by a hazardous waste site. CAGs are made up of representatives with diverse community interests and provide a public forum for community members to present and discuss their needs and concerns about the decision-making process at sites affecting them.

The CAG concept was introduced in Round 1 as part of the objective to expand meaningful public involvement. Initially the CAG program was part of the environmental justice strategy, and was initiated to ensure that all communities are part of the Superfund process.

Reform 2-5a continues with these ideas, and encourages Regions to foster the development of CAGs. Two primary goals of this reform are to:

  • Create mutual trust and demonstrate that EPA is a partner in solving community environmental problems.

  • Enhance and accelerate the Superfund cleanup decision-making process.

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Reform Status
check mark Implementation of this reform is complete.

EPA will continue to:

  • Evaluate the effect of CAGs on community involvement;

  • Involve communities by promoting and assisting CAGs and by developing a CAG website;

  • Test the CAG Toolkit at various sites and make continual improvements to it (see Documents below).

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  • EPA slated the program to have 10 pilot CAG sites; however, the number of pilot sites grew to 16 between the time the program started and when it was officially taken out of the pilot stage.
  • In July 1996 (at the National Community Involvement Conference in Chicago), EPA took the program out of the pilot stage and started accepting names of additional CAGs. (e.g. DOD - Restoration Advisory Board (RAB); DOE - Site Specific Advisory Boards (SSAB); ATSDR - Community Advisory Panel (CAP)).
  • In FY98, Federal agencies began to adapt the CAG concept for their own programs.
  • EPA developed the "CAG Toolkit" to help communities establish CAGs. These kits, which contain a variety of information for use in setting up and maintaining a CAG. Two versions of the Toolkit were produced, one for EPA staff (e.g. the Community Involvement Coordinator and site team to support the CAG, and for the community).
  • During September 1998 EPA developed and produced a booklet called "About the CAG Toolkit", highlighting the Toolkit's content and promoting its use in communities. In October 1998, the Agency printed and distributed revised editions of the Toolkit based on the results of Toolkit field test at 18 sites.
  • EPA issued several documents concerning the CAG program as a result of this reform (see additional information in the Documents section).
  • Across the country, the number of CAGs has steadily increased. During FY02-FY04, EPA established 6 additional CAGs.
Through Fiscal Year
Community Advisory Groups (CAGS) Established

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Lessons Learned
The effectiveness of the CAG program was evaluated using a case study approach. The case studies examined activities at specific sites and were developed based on interviews with community members involved in CAGs, EPA personnel, and State and local government personnel involved in site cleanup efforts. The following five hazardous waste sites were chosen for case studies:
  • Allied Paper, Inc. site in Portage Creek/Kalamazoo River, Michigan

    The CAG at the Allied Paper site, consisting of State Officials and local citizens, facilitated community involvement. The CAG meets bimonthly and has sent site progress reports and fact sheets to more than 600 citizens in an effort to keep them informed of the progress at the site. [FY97 Success]

  • Brio Refining site in Harris County, Texas

    A CAG was formed in 1994 at the Brio Refining site to allow citizens and local officials to participate in decisions affecting the cleanup of this site. The CAG meets regularly and maintains a mailing list of over 800 citizens. In 1995, the CAG prepared and submitted an application for a Technical Assistance Grant to increase local understanding of proposed cleanup plans for the site. [FY97 Success]

  • Carolawn, Inc. site in Chester County, South Carolina
  • Colorado School of Mines Research Institute site in Golden, Colorado

    EPA helped establish a CAG which allowed for the enhancement of the Superfund cleanup decision-making process through direct community involvement. This site was used as a case study in an EPA document about CAGs (see Documents below). [FY97 Success]

  • Geneva City Dump/True Sports Site in Geneva, Ohio

    Co-founder Beth Robinson and Chairperson Pat Simpson of the CAG for the Geneva City Dump/True Temper Sports sites in Geneva, Ohio, said that the CAG has strongly impacted site cleanup. They cited the CAG's success in expanding the scope of the original cleanup plan to include removal of contaminated sludge from a lagoon. They also said that EPA listened and responded to community concerns by doubling the size of the cleanup and incorporating citizen comments into the work plan. [FY98 Success]

  • Libby Community Advisory Group in Libby, Montana
    Please see Libby Evaluation Report

  • Oronogo-Duenweg Mining Belt site in Jasper County, Missouri
  • Southern Maryland Wood Treating site in Hollywood, Maryland
  • Southern Shipbuilding site in Slidell, Louisana

    After a CAG was formed at the Southern Shipbuilding site, more than a dozen formal and informal meetings with concerned citizens and elected officials were held to shape site studies and remedy selection. A striking measure of this community involvement is that an incineration remedy in the middle of the city received majority support from residents (and unanimous endorsement by the City Council). [FY97 Success]

  • Velsicol Chemical site in St. Louis, Missouri

    According to Chairman Ed Lorenz of the Pine River Task Force (at the Velsicol Chemical site) in St. Louis, Missouri, information in the CAG Toolkit prompted the group to focus on environmental justice issues. The task force has done extensive outreach to local citizens, and a nearby Indian reservation now has an active member on the group. The task force has also reached out to seasonal migrant workers. [FY98 Success]

The case studies highlighted the following important lessons for communities considering formation of CAGs:
  1. CAGs should be formed as early as possible.
  2. The community must take the initiative in CAG formation and operation.
  3. CAGs must be inclusive and independent.
  4. Access to good technical expertise is important.
  5. The CAG must recognize what is possible and work within those limits.
  6. CAG leaders must be in it for the long haul.
  7. CAGs are more effective than public meetings.
  8. The need for additional resources is a common concern.
  9. CAGs can give the community more influence in site-related decisions.
  10. CAGs can speed up the process.
Based on the positive results of the case study evaluation, EPA will continue to pursue CAGs where appropriate.

For additional information, refer to the EPA publication "Community Advisory Groups: Partners in Decisions at Hazardous Waste Sites" (see Documents below).

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Stakeholder Comments
Speaking on behalf of the CAG at the Geneva City Dump/True Temper Sports sites in Geneva, Ohio, co-founder Beth Robinson and Chairperson Pat Simpson said:

"Our Community Advisory Group has had an excellent, non-adversarial relationship with EPA from the beginning of the process. They said the community trusted EPA more as a result of the formation and operation of the Community Advisory Group."

The co-chairs, John Chenier and Tony Davenport, of the CAG at the Dutch Boy site in Chicago, Illinois, commented that:

"The Dutch Boy Site Community Advisory Group has been an effective way of getting everyone with an interest in site decisions to talk to each other. Now, the two homeowners associations work together closely -- not only on site-related issues, but on other common concerns. The flow of information between the local, state, and federal government and community residents has improved as well."

David Hall, Emergency Management Coordinator for the City of Texarkana, was very supportive of CAGs at the Local Government Relocation Forum held on April 18, 1997. He commented that CAGs were:

The best thing since homemade bread."

According to Mr. Schrader, the co-chair of the CAG at the Brio Refining site in Harris County, Texas, the CAG has been successful because:

"Dedicated people from the community have been willing to work hard over a long period of time to get our positions taken into account."

Catherine O'Brien, a CAG member at the Brio Refining site, stated that prior to the CAG:

"The community could talk to EPA in public meetings, but that wasn't very productive. The PRPs could meet with EPA anytime, because they worked on the site issues all day; the community couldn't, because we have other jobs to do. The CAG has leveled the playing field."

She also said she believes the CAG concept is:

"The best way to resolve issues at Superfund sites, because everyone talks and listens to each other."

Mr. White, the Community Advisory Board Chairman for the Carolawn, Inc. site in Fort Lawn, SC, stated that:

"Regardless of how the decision is made, residents now feel they have had some input."

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Title: About the Community Advisory Group Toolkit: A Summary of the Tools
Date: September 1998
Document #: EPA 540-K-97-007
Synopsis: This booklet briefly describes the information, tips, and tools in the CAG Toolkit. It can help citizens understand what a CAG is and decide if their community needs one. For citizens who live in an area that already has a CAG, this information can help them become more involved.

Title: About the Community Advisory Group Toolkit: A Summary of the Tools (Spanish translation)
Date: September 1998
Document #: EPA 540-K-98-006, NTIS PB98-963256

Title: Community Advisory Groups: Partners in Decisions at Hazardous Waste Sites
Date: November 1996
Document #: EPA 540R-96-043, NTIS PB96-963250
Synopsis: This document includes case studies of the following hazardous waste sites: 1) The Brio Refining, Inc., Superfund Site in Harris County, Texas; 2) The Carolawn, Inc., Superfund Site in Chester County, South Carolina; 3) The Colorado School of Mines Research Institute Site in Golden, Colorado; 4) The Oronogo Duenweg Mining Belt Site in Jasper County, Missouri; and 5) The Southern Maryland Wood Treating Superfund Site in Hollywood, Maryland.

Title: Community Advisory Group Toolkit for EPA Staff
Date: September 1998
Document #: EPA 540-R-97-038
Synopsis: This publication is available only to and intended for the sole use of EPA staff.

Title: Community Advisory Group Toolkit for the Community
Date: September 1998
Document #: EPA 540-R-97-037
Synopsis: EPA developed the CAG Toolkit to help citizens organize and run their CAG. The CAG Toolkit contains outlines, forms, publications, and other "tools" citizens can use in establishing and operating a CAG.

Title: Fact Sheet: Community Advisory Groups (CAGs) at Superfund Sites
Date: August 1996
Document #: EPA 540-F-96-016, OSWER 9230.0-28AFS, NTIS PB96-963243
Synopsis: This fact sheet summarizes the main points of the "Guidance for Community Advisory Groups at Superfund Sites."

Title: Superfund Today: Focus on the Community Advisory Group Program
Date: May 1996
Document #: EPA 540-K-96-005
Synopsis: This issue of Superfund Today provides general information on CAGs, tells residents how to establish a group, and presents a case study of the Carolawn Site in South Carolina.

Title: Guidance for Community Advisory Groups at Superfund Sites (PDF 227K, 36 pages)
Date: December 1995
Document #: EPA 540-K-96-001, OSWER 9230.0-28, NTIS PB94-963293
Synopsis: This guidance document is designed to assist EPA staff in working with CAGs at Superfund sites (including remedial and appropriate removal sites). The guidance addresses the objectives, functions, membership, and scope of authority for CAGs. It emphasizes practical approaches and activities, and is designed to be flexible enough to meet the unique needs of individual local communities.

Title: Community Advisory Group (CAG) New
Date: February 2004
Document #: EPA 540-K-96-001, OSWER 9230.0-28, NTIS PB94-963293
Synopsis: The definition of a CAG as defined by the Office of Community Involvement.

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