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Round 3-5a: Community Participation in Designing Risk Assessments

Reform Description
The objective of this initiative is to promote public participation in the risk assessment process through the creation of a concise, helpful, user-friendly reference that will provide risk assessors and community members with suggestions for working together in designing and carrying out good risk assessments.

A key element of the design of a risk assessment should be a meaningful consideration of the issues and concerns that the community has about the risks posed by the site. EPA believes that people who live and work near a Superfund site not only deserve to be informed and involved, but also are likely to have knowledge and insights that would be helpful in planning and conducting a site-specific risk assessment.

For related information, see the closely associated reform on Standardizing Risk Assessments (Reform 3-6b).

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Reform Status
check mark Implementation of this reform is complete.

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Throughout 1996, EPA met with various stakeholders to solicit ideas and help prioritize the focus areas for the Risk Assessment Guidance for Superfund (RAGS) reforms. This outreach effort culminated in two large stakeholder forums convened by the International City/County Managers Association (ICMA) on October 29-31, 1996, in San Francisco, California, and on November 6-8, 1996, in Washington, D.C.

At the forums, stakeholders identified key areas for improvement and offered suggestions to improve RAGS. The stakeholders also had the opportunity to dialogue with EPA and other interested groups on a variety of Superfund issues. ICMA prepared meeting proceedings, which were mailed to the forum participants.

Based on input from both the stakeholders and the Agency's own risk assessors and managers, EPA identified four key issues to address:
  • Community Involvement in Superfund Risk Assessments;
  • Use of Background in Risk Assessments;
  • Non-residential Land Uses; and
  • Probabilistic Risk Assessment.
In March 1997, EPA created workgroups with both Headquarters and the Regional representatives to address these issues, and to prepare a risk assessment reference document. After completion of the first draft of the reference document in September 1997, the document was circulated within EPA for comments. In January 1998, a revised draft was provided for review to over 200 representatives of community groups, State and local governments, and industry.

In March 1998, the Agency revisited the key issues with stakeholders at the third ICMA/EPA RAGS Reform Stakeholder Forum in Atlanta, Georgia. EPA also solicited comments from the participants on a draft of the reference document, and continued to make revisions based on feedback received. After the March conference, EPA discussed the draft at a number of EPA technical and community involvement meetings, and with other stakeholders, such as ASTSWMO.

In FY99, EPA (1) issued the final risk assessment reference document, (2) produced a video that discusses risk assessments and opportunities for public involvement, and (3) prepared a hand-out on community participation. The reference document was finalized and released in March 1999, as a supplement to the 1989 Risk Assessment Guidance for Superfund (see Documents below). EPA developed a citizen brochure to accompany the guidance in April 1999. The video was finalized in September 1999 and includes examples from communities living near Superfund sites. EPA plans to pilot the video in the Regions during FY 2000

In addition to the four key areas identified in 1996, EPA risk assessors began a new effort to develop an educational videotape on risk assessment and the role of citizens. Participants of the March 1998 meeting in Atlanta provided input on the early planning stages for the video and gave advice on the format and content. Draft versions of the video were played for EPA staff and various stakeholders attending EPA meetings to help refine the focus of the tape.

In addition, a February 1999 issue of Superfund Today highlights the risk assessment reforms.

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Success Stories
Big River Site Risk Assessment Training, MO

EPA Region 7, in cooperation with Missouri's Department of Health and Department of Natural Resources, presented risk assessment training to the local community at the Big River site and other historic lead mining sites in Missouri's St. Francois County. The training will enable the community to participate in the risk decision-making and lay the groundwork for later participation in the response action decision-making stage. [FY97 Success]

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Title: Risk Assessment Guidance for Superfund, Volume 1, Human Health Evaluation Manual (Part A, Interim Final)
Date: December 1989
Document #: EPA 540-1-89-002, OSWER 9285.7-01a, NTIS PB90-155581CDH
Synopsis: RAGS Part A provides guidance on the human health evaluation activities that are conducted during the baseline risk assessment.

Title: Risk Assessment Guidance for Superfund, Volume 1, Human Health Evaluation Manual (Supplement to Part A): Community Involvement in Superfund Risk Assessments
Date: March 1999
Document #: EPA 540-R-98-042, OSWER 9285.7-01
Synopsis: Experience has shown that communities can provide useful information about site history, the ways people may come into contact with the site, and health concerns. This document provides: guidance for EPA staff on ways to involve the community in the risk assessment process; case examples; tips for risk assessors and RPMs; and key questions to ask people. (This guidance does not replace or supercede any existing community involvement requirements under the NCP.)

Title: Superfund Today: Focus on Revisions to Superfund's Risk Assessment Guidance
Date: February 1999
Document #: EPA 540-F-98-055, OSWER 9285.7-26J-P, NTIS PB99-963302
Synopsis: This issue of "Superfund Today" updates EPA's progress with the risk assessment reforms.

Title: Superfund Today: Focus on Revisions to Superfund's Risk Assessment Guidance
Date: October 1997
Document #: EPA 540-F-97-013
Synopsis: This issue of "Superfund Today" discusses EPA's commitment to conduct reasonable and consistent Superfund risk assessments and involve stakeholders in the decision-making process.

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