Colorado Citizens Against ToxicWaste Receive Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award
Bold. Dedicated. Inspirational. All of these words describe the efforts of Colorado Citizens Against ToxicWaste (CCAT) of Canon City, Colorado, the winner of the 2004 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented CCAT with this award at its annual Community Involvement Conference in Denver, Colorado on June 17.
CCAT serves as an inspirational example of what dedicated community members can achieve. In a relatively small time period, CCAT developed a multi-faceted community involvement process to implement its mission "to inform and educate the public regarding toxic and radioactive waste." To achieve its mission, CCAT holds regular public meetings to inform citizens about the Lincoln Park Study Area Superfund Site, maintains an informative Web site , frequently contributes material to local media outlets, and publishes educational flyers. CCAT also actively involved citizens in the political process by sponsoring candidate forums during election cycles, informing elected officials and regulatory authorities of pertinent developments in their community, and engaging citizens in constructive discourse.
Although CCAT's co-chairs and most of its board have full-time jobs, they spend numerous hours in the records centers of the state health department and EPA researching their position papers and educating themselves to enable them to better inform the public. The EPA awarded CCAT a $50,000 Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) to hire independent technical experts to examine existing data relevant to the site and remedy. CCAT has successfully used this grant to provide additional scrutiny of technical issues related to the site.
CCAT has been successful at informing the public on issues surrounding the Lincoln Park Study Area Superfund Site. For example, when a local uranium mill attempted to change its mission from processing to direct disposal of radioactive waste, CCAT alerted the public to the state health department's re-licensing process and requested that the state hold public meetings to hear citizens' concerns. As a direct result of CCAT's efforts, these concerns were codified in two Colorado State House Bills that ensure public participation in the state health department's licensing process for facilities that want to accept hazardous waste.
In addition, CCAT has assisted the EPA Site Team in developing innovative formats for government-sponsored public meetings. Through discussions with CCAT, the EPA has developed an "All Topics Considered" Public Meeting in Canon City, which features a freestyle format where citizens can present any questions or concerns to EPA officials. The site's EPA Community Involvement Coordinator is also collaborating with CCAT to establish videoconferences to focus on technical problems at the site. By using videoconferences, EPA's experts can directly converse with the community's technical-minded citizens while saving time and money for the community or EPA.
The EPA commends CCAT members for their efforts to involve the community in environmental policy discussions that directly affect local residents. Their actions will have a lasting impact on their community and the State of Colorado.