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Environment Matters Audio Podcast

Environment Matters
EPA Region 3
Topic: Environmental Cleanups and You
Size: : 3,999k
Time: 04:17

Date: March 13, 2013

Helen DuTeau: It's great when you can see something that once was contaminated and useless and an eyesore, become something that is green or valuable for the community and something that we know is protective of human health and the environment.

[opening music]

Host: Hello, I'm Lena Kim, and welcome to Environment Matters, EPA's series of Environmental podcasts. 

Before the Superfund program was established, America did not have laws to deal with abandoned hazardous waste.   In 1980, Superfund was created to clean up the worst of the worst abandoned hazardous waste sites.

In the law, Congress included a role for community participation in Superfund site clean-ups.  EPA's Helen DuTeau discusses how essential that role is.

Helen DuTeau: One of the critical advantages of having a community involvement program in Superfund is we make better decisions as an agency when we involve the community.  We make better decisions not just technically, but what works best for the community.

DuTeau: From the beginning of when a Superfund site is discovered until it is cleaned up and taken off the National Priorities List, which is the federal list of the most contaminated sites, there is a role for community involvement throughout that process and it can take many, many years to clean up a site.  That's why it's important to engage the community at the beginning of the process, because there are stops along the way where the communities have to give us input on our decision-making process and what we are proposing in terms of cleanup. So it's very important that they understand the technology, the science and the risks behind what we are doing.

HOST: EPA's Superfund law provides resources for citizens.

DuTeau: Community Involvement Coordinators are responsible for engaging and involving communities in the cleanup of hazardous waste sites. In 1986 when the Superfund law expanded, it gave us even more tools and really valuable tools one of the things that we have available for communities is we assign a Community Involvement Coordinator to every community that we work with and Community Involvement Coordinators have a toolbox of resources, technical assistance resources that we can give to communities to help them understand technical informations to help interpret complicated documents, data…

Host: DuTeau, who oversees a team of EPA Community Involvement Coordinators in its mid-Atlantic region talks about the skills needed to keep everyone at a Superfund site informed - - from residents who live nearby, to local and other elected officials, state and  federal agencies, and the media. 

DuTeau: One of the greatest things that I think about the community involvement program is the opportunity to be creative.   Not every single communications approach is going to work for every single community.  Communities have different needs.  They have different questions.  We have to figure out the best way to build relationships. The vision was always there to have community engagement and community involvement and over the years not only have our statutory requirements have grown, our creative approach to how we involve communities has grown.  

Host: Working with local revitalization is key.

DuTeau: Nationwide, EPA has cleaned up more than a thousand sites.  What's exciting is that we are also part of a visioning process for the community as to how they want to see that land reused.  While EPA doesn't make that decision, we facilitate those discussions and we can design our cleanups around the community's vision for how they want to see that property reused.

[closing music]

HOST: To learn more about EPA's Superfund community involvement program check out epa.gov/superfund/community.   Thank you, Helen, and thank you for listening to Environment Matters.



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