This activity lets
students assume roles and act out a situation that illustrates
the process of decision making related to cleaning up a Superfund
site. Students identify the participants in the Superfund
decision making process, make judgments about the potential
effect of site cleanup on the characters they portray, and
learn that different people have different perspectives on
the same cleanup issues. In addition, they practice writing
statements, formulating questions, and articulating their
views in a public meeting setting.
Whether we are children
or adults, our lives are influenced by a constant series of choices.
Some choices we make for ourselves. Some are made by parents for their
children, and many are made by people we don't even know. The combination
of all these choices determines the quality of each of our lives. Making
these choices is not easy because sometimes what one person perceives
as the right choice for him or her as an individual may be perceived
as the wrong choice for the neighborhood, community, or country.
For example, people living
near an abandoned hazardous waste site may want the site cleaned
up as fast as possible, no matter what the cost, because they fear for
their own, as well as their children's, safety. On the other hand, people
employed by a company that caused the contamination at the site (a Potentially
Responsible Party) or the local government may favor alternatives
that, while effective, take longer and cost less. They are concerned
about the impact on jobs and the local economy if the government requires
the company to pay too much for the cleanup.
The process of making decisions
about Superfund site cleanup involves weighing and balancing
a variety of technical and nontechnical factors, including the sometimes
competing interests in the community. This activity provides a lesson
about Federal policy-making that extends well beyond the Superfund Program.
To help prepare your students
for this activity, use Warm-Up 5: Hazardous
Waste Issues in the News. You may perform the entire Warm-Up or
simply review the main points covered in it. As a follow-up, have your
students perform Activity 11: What the Community
For additional information
on these topics, see the Suggested Reading list found at the end of
the Haz-Ed materials. Other Haz-Ed materials that are related to this
topic include Fact Flash 8: Common Cleanup Methods and Fact Flash 10:
Superfund Community Involvement Program.
Gather the following materials:
- Explain to students that
in two successive follow-up sessions the class will act out a situation
that illustrates the sometimes difficult process of making decisions
about Superfund site cleanup. For this role-playing exercise, students
will assume they live in the hypothetical area of the Flowing Railroad
Superfund site. They will participate in a community meeting held
to discuss and air community views about the site cleanup options
- Divide the class into
nine teams. Explain that each team will represent one of the "players"
in this drama: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Remedial
Project Manager (RPM), EPA's Community Involvement Coordinator
(CIC), a local Health Department official, the Mayor of Ruralville,
the attorney forFRR Enterprises, a local environmental activist, a
person employed at Flow Automations, Inc., a local farmer, and a local
NOTE: If you live
in a community near a real Superfund site, you may choose to prepare
Student Handouts using information about that site so the role-play
will be more realistic for your students. Call the Community Involvement
Coordinator in your state. Phone numbers are provided at the end
of the Haz-Ed materials.
- Assign a role to each
team and explain that later each team will have to choose 1 team member
to be the actor when the first part of the drama is played out at
the next class. Team members should prepare a written statement for
their character to deliver, as well as a list of questions the character
may want to ask at the meeting.
- Distribute the Student
Handout, Analysis of alternatives for Cleaning
Up Flowing River Site. Give each team the Character
Background Sheet that is appropriate for its assigned role.
NOTE: If you live in a community near a Superfund site, you may
choose to adjust the roles and the background information for each
to approximate the makeup and situation in your community.
- Distribute Fact Flashes
2 and 4. Explain
to students that these Fact Flashes can be used as background information.
- Explain that the information
on these handouts can be used to develop their character's beliefs,
attitudes, and point of view about the cleanup. Stress that this should
go beyond what the character knows or has heard and should include
identifying questions the character wants to ask about the cleanup.
Encourage students to talk to their parents, local city or town government
officials, business owners, and others to help develop their perspectives.
Also remind students that some of their characters-EPA's RPM and CIC,
the Mayor, and the official from the local Health Department, and
possibly others-would probably consult with each other in real life
to prepare for the meeting. Encourage teams responsible for these
characters to do so.
- Specify a specific date
for the next class, allowing several days for preparation.
- For the role-play activity,
have the students representing the Mayor and the CIC arrange desks
or a table at the front of the room with chairs to accommodate 4 people,
the Mayor, EPA's CIC, RPM, and the moderator/facilitator. Place a
lectern, desk, or small table somewhere else in the room from which
the other characters will make their statements.
NOTE: You may wish to
assume the role of moderator/facilitator yourself or you can select
a student to do so. The moderator/facilitator's only responsibilities
are to maintain order, see that everyone has an opportunity to speak,
direct questions to the appropriate person to answer, and see that
people speak in turn rather than all at once.
- At the conclusion of the
meeting, explain to the students that the teams playing EPA's RPM
and CIC will get together and consider the information presented in
this meeting, make a decision, and present a Proposed Cleanup Plan
at the next class (specify the date, allowing sufficient time for
the RPM team to meet and prepare a plan). Students from the other
teams will have an opportunity to discuss the decision among themselves
and comment on it.
- Have the Mayor speak first
to welcome people to the meeting, then EPA's CIC. After that, have
others (the assigned characters) raise their hands to be recognized
as they would in a real meeting and call on them in turn. After all
participants have made their initial statements, the various characters
may be recognized to ask follow-up questions or make additional observations
as often as time permits.
- Have the spokesperson
for the RPM team present the team's Proposed Cleanup Plan, including
the rationale for choosing the selected remedy. Allow no more than
10 minutes for this presentation.
- Give students about 10
minutes to discuss the decision with their team members. Offer the
teams an opportunity to comment on the decision. Is the decision clear?
Do they agree with it? Why or why not? Do they understand the RPM
team's rationale in making the decision?
- After teams have made
comments from the perspective of their characters, invite the class
as a whole to discuss the role-play and the decisionmaking process
illustrated. What were the various points of view expressed in the
meeting? Which were similar? Which were different (competing)? Which
would you have expected to carry more weight? Why? Did those points
of view appear to influence the final decision? How do you think the
decision will affect the quality of life in the community? Now that
the decision has been made, do you think all the characters in this
drama will accept it? Why or why not? What options do they have if
they do not accept it? (NOTE: An Instructor Fact Sheet, Highlights
about Roles, is included in this lesson to help you ensure that the
perspectives of all characters in the role-play are covered during
- Have students bring in
examples throughout the year, from newspaper or local television news,
of real Superfund cleanup or hazardous waste prevention decisions
made by your local government or a major local business. Set aside
time periodically to discuss the choices involved in these decisions
and their impact on the quality of life in the community. Warm-Up
5: Hazardous Waste Issues in the News contains sample articles of
the type students may find.
Instructor Fact Sheet - Highlights
NOTE: You may need to
begin the discussion by identifying 1 or 2 of the actors' perspectives;
try to make sure that perspectives of all the characters are covered
during this discussion, encouraging the participants to identify as
many as possible. You may want to write students' responses on the blackboard,
or on a flip chart if you have one, to illustrate the range of perspectives
presented and reinforce the idea that the decisionmaking process involves
weighing and balancing many different, and sometimes competing, points
- The RPM
wants to learn more about the citizens' concerns so s/he knows what
they are and how they can be addressed by the cleanup of the site
and reflected in various written reports and other methods (e.g.,
also wants to learn more about the community's concerns, so s/he can
begin identifying the kinds of information the community is seeking
and ways it can be provided to them.
- The local
health official wants more information about potential health
hazards the community will be exposed to; the health official also
sees this as an opportunity to increase his/her standing in the community.
- The Mayor
of Ruralville has multiple perspectives. The mayor is concerned about
the Human Health & Ecological Risk of the citizens and wants answers to questions.
The mayor is also concerned about Ruralville's economic growth; its
ability to attract future business; the danger of losing a major employer
if FRR Enterprises goes bankrupt as a result of paying for cleaning
up the site; and his/ her own reelection.
- The attorney
for FRR Enterprises wants to protect his/her client's interests. If
FRR Enterprises is being damaged financially due to incorrect or overly
cautious studies, or is being asked to conduct site activities that
go beyond reasonable measures for cleaning up the site, the attorney
wants to know this so s/he can take action on behalf of the company.
- The local environmental
activist is genuinely concerned about improving the environment
and asks some very informed and appropriate questions in search for
- The plant
worker is worried about job security, as well as his/her family's
Human Health & Ecological Risk.
- The farmer
depends on the water from the Flowing River to irrigate the farm.
The publicity surrounding this situation has already caused customers
to be alarmed. The farmer wants to know exactly how serious this situation
really is and how s/he can protect his/her farmland and economic future.
- The carpenter
is concerned that the needs of poor people in the community won't
be considered as decisions about the site are being made.