Technical Assistance Grant (TAG)
familiar with how the U.S Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) tries to encourage communities near Superfund sites
to become involved in the Superfund process. The types of
activities communities can undertake to influence how hazardous
waste sites are cleaned up are presented and discussed. Students
become familiar with the different ways EPA encourages the
community to get involved and the role of the local community
in the Superfund process.
is an essential part of all Superfund actions because the Superfund
Program was established to protect the public's right to a safe, healthy
environment free of dangerous hazardous waste sites. In addition to
identifying the public's concerns and trying to address them, EPA and
state and local environmental officials encourage groups of local citizens
to become actively involved in determining the future use of contaminated
EPA has always recognized
the public's interest in hazardous waste management and its right to
participate in the Superfund process. The law that created the Superfund
Program requires a community involvement program at Superfund hazardous
waste sites. This means that EPA must conduct specific activities to
provide opportunities for public participation.
For more information on
community involvement, see the brochure This
is Superfund and 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
2: The Superfund Cleanup Program and Activity
9: Making Decisions About Hazardous Waste Cleanup.
- Gather the following materials:
Read Fact Flash 10 and
review Activity 9: Making Decisions About
Hazardous Waste Cleanup to prepare your lecture.
- Copies for each student
Fact Flash 3: Flowing Railroad Hazardous
Waste Site and Fact Flash 10: Superfund
Community Involvement Program.
- Begin the session by asking
students who consider themselves "community activists" to raise their
hands. Have a few of them explain what they mean by "activism" and
why it is important to get involved in what goes on in the community.
Also ask the students if any of them know of a Superfund site, and
if so, whether they are familiar with EPA's public participation efforts
and the community's response. If students volunteer some familiarity
with the community involvement program or a site, have them share
their knowledge with the class. The site may be local or may be one
of the better known sites across the country.
- Distribute Fact
Flash 10: Superfund Community Involvement Program. Briefly
review the opportunities for citizens to get involved in the Superfund
Program and the examples of communities that have had a significant
impact on the Superfund process.
- Distribute Fact
Flash 3: Flowing Railroad Hazardous Waste Site. Briefly review
the main issues to be considered at the site. Explain that the class
will be divided into groups for a role-playing exercise. Half of the
groups will play the role of community residents near the site, and
the remaining groups will assume the role of an EPA Community Involvement
Coordinator (CIC). The Community Involvement Coordinator is responsible
for developing, implementing, and managing EPA's community involvement
and outreach activities at a site. Tell the students that each group
will need to select a spokesperson and that the spokesperson will
be expected to speak for about 5 or 10 minutes at a future class period
about what their group decided to do in their role as an EPA CIC or
as community residents.
- Divide the class into
groups and assign their roles. (NOTE: The number of groups may vary,
but each should include about 5 or 6 students.)
For the last 10 to 15
minutes of the period, tell the students to meet with their groups
to discuss their assigned roles and tasks. Remind them that each group
will give a 5- to 10-minute presentation on their assigned topic for
the next class. The class period for the presentations should be scheduled
1 or 2 weeks after the initial assignment is made.
- The groups playing community
residents are to develop an "action plan" for influencing the cleanup
decisions at the hazardous waste site. Their plans should identify
activities they can undertake, as well as activities they would
like EPA to undertake to inform them about what is happening at
the site. Instruct the group to explain how they would implement
the activity. For example, if they choose to form a task force to
monitor EPA's activities and to make recommendations, the students
must explain how they would form a task force, who would be a member,
how often the task force would meet, and what issues it would address.
- The groups playing
an EPA CIC are to develop a community involvement plan that identifies
steps that EPA will undertake to involve the community in site decisions
and activities. Their plan should state the goals of the community
involvement activities, the specific activities, and when the activities
would be conducted. Remind this group that EPA is required to undertake
certain activities by law. As part of this process, these groups
will need to consider what information they can obtain from the
community and how they can obtain this information. For example,
they can interview residents door-to-door or ask residents questions
at public meetings.
Encourage group members
to discuss among themselves how best to accomplish the assigned task,
make contact with appropriate sources of information, conduct interviews,
compile information, structure a presentation, and prepare to answer
questions posed by other students. Below are some resources the students
- EPA Regional Community
Involvement Coordinator (CIC). By contacting the EPA Regional
CIC for your state (see This is Superfund brochure), students can
identify a nearby Superfund site or one within the state that they
can research. Information can be collected from the Regional CIC
or from a Superfund Information Repository. Each Superfund site
has a local Superfund Information Repository nearby. Typically,
these repositories are at a public library. The Repository contains
the Community Relations Plan and other community outreach materials.
- Local, State, or
National Environmental or Citizen Groups. Groups concerned with
hazardous waste management or the cleanup of a specific site are
an excellent source of information. For example, students can contact
a local chapter of a national group, such as the Sierra Club, or
a local activist group concerned with a specific site. Students
should be able to find out about how other communities successfully
influenced EPA's efforts at a site and get ideas for their own plans.
- Have each group give its
presentation and allow other students to ask questions. Ask group
members what problems, if any, they encountered in preparing their
presentations. Ask if they learned anything or met any people who
were particularly surprising or interesting.
- The discussion session
should be interactive. Facilitate the discussion by asking both the
presenter and the class questions. How do the suggestions from the
groups representing the community residents differ from those of groups
representing the CIC? Ask the class to explain the differing viewpoints
and come up with ways to reach a common understanding.
Some questions the class might consider include:
Conclude the class by
describing a nearby site and asking if the site or the surrounding
community has any unique characteristics that would require a specific
type of outreach activity. For example, if the community is predominantly
Hispanic, all of the site documents must be translated into Spanish.
Or, if the site is located in an area where there is one primary employer,
citizens may oppose EPA's presence at the site out of fear that the
employer will be forced to go out of business and they will lose their
jobs. In such a case, EPA efforts need to focus on relieving these
- Are residents concerned
that a major employer is responsible for site cleanup and that this
liability may result in financial problems for the company or the
community? If so, residents may oppose EPA's efforts to clean up
the site and pressure EPA to permit the company to do the minimum,
rather than undertake an expensive cleanup remedy.
- Is the community concerned
about the future use of the site? If so, the community may oppose
site cleanup remedies that restrict future use and instead recommend
solutions that will permit the community to either develop the property
or create recreational facilities. Something like this happened
at the Chisman Creek Superfund site in Virginia. Initially, the
proposed site cleanup plan recommended that the site be fenced and
use of the property be restricted. Local residents, however, had
previously used the site for recreational purposes, such as motorbiking,
walking, and fishing. Consequently, local residents objected to
building a fence around the site. EPA worked with local government
officials and the Potentially Responsible Party to convert the site
into a county recreational facility with softball and soccer fields
after cleanup. The facility now is equipped with field lighting,
a parking lot, and restrooms.
- Do any non-English speaking
people live in the community? If so, EPA needs to develop a community
involvement strategy to reach out to this segment of the community
- What else can EPA do
to promote community involvement, particularly if the community
does not seem interested?
- What are some innovative,
creative, or unusual public participation activities EPA could do
to increase community awareness and involvement? For instance, EPA
could sponsor a radio talk show or local television cable show to
answer questions about the site.
- Consider inviting an EPA
or State Community Involvement Coordinator who is involved in overseeing
public participation efforts at hazardous waste cleanup projects to
attend the second class period, hear the presentations, and share
with the class his or her own experiences (see the Contacts and Resources
section at the end of the Haz-Ed materials for EPA and state contacts).
- Consider inviting to the
second class period a community activist who lives near a hazardous
waste site to describe his or her experiences related to the cleanup
of the site.