Topic: RPM in Action
Date: February 20, 2009
Host: Hi. I’m Joan Schafer of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s mid-Atlantic Region, and welcome to Environment Matters -- our series of podcasts.
574 – That’s the number of contaminated properties or sites here in the mid-Atlantic region that are getting the highest priority for clean-up by the EPA.
These sites are known as Superfund sites – the name given to the environmental program established back in 1980 to address the country’s worst, abandoned hazardous waste sites.
And EPA staff who work with these sites are called Remedial Project Managers. To get an in-depth view of what a strong, efficient RPM looks like -- RPM standing for Remedial Project Manager -- we sat down and talked to Kristine Matzko, a mother, a scientist, and an EPA employee who has spent the last 9 of her 18 years as a Remedial Project Manager.
Kristine: As a remedial project manager, or RPM, I'm involved in cleaning up sites from start to finish – from studying the extent of contamination -------- to evaluating health risks -------- to cleaning up sites so that they are safe for people, the environment, and possibly for reuse.
I manage 8 different sites, all in various stages of investigation and cleanup… from sites like a landfill where waste has contaminated a wetland, an abandoned waste pile in a city, and groundwater contaminated by chemical disposal. Although there are many kinds of contaminants found at Superfund sites, I work to cleanup TCE in groundwater and metals and PCBs in soils, which can be harmful to public health and the environment.
Host: While she makes it sound like a smooth process, the cleanup of Superfund sites is extremely complex due to the various issues that need to be addressed concerning both the law and communities. Kristine says this is the most challenging aspect of her job.
Kristine: The most important part of being an RPM is addressing the important details while keeping the big picture in focus. People living near these contaminated sites are concerned about their health and need to be constantly updated and reassured about the work EPA is doing. The legal process at a Superfund sites is often very complex, for example I have to work on getting access to sample properties. I work to reach agreement with companies to perform work. In addition I oversee the installation of groundwater monitoring wells, I review financial information, I am talking with residents, I review engineering designs. There is a lot of work to be done in a Superfund site. That's why it takes so many years to finish - to cleanup a site safely and efficiently.
Host: Clearly, RPM’s juggle many non-scientific responsibilities, though most do have science or engineering backgrounds. For instance, they work directly with attorneys and community members, they work with the contractors working on the site, and they also work with responsible parties in cleaning-up the contamination.
For Kristine, the best part of her job is that she’s challenged by new and interesting work at every site.
Kristine: Whether EPA is just beginning to investigate a site or EPA's been in your community for many years, the person to turn to when you have a question is the RPM, the Remedial Project Manager.
Host: RPM’s like Kristine Matzko, they work tirelessly and passionately on every aspect of Superfund sites to enact the best possible cleanup, ensuring the health and safety of workers and communities alike.
For more information about EPA’s Superfund program, please visit www.epa.gov on the website. And thank you for joining us on Environment Matters, our series of podcasts.