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Cleanups at Federal Facilities

Community Involvement at Federal Facilities

Community members can learn about federal facilities near them and participate in decision making under provisions of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as Superfund. According to Executive Order 12580, at federal facilities that are on the National Priorities List (NPL), the agency that owns and operates the facility has the lead responsibility for cleanup activities, including community involvement.

Additional Community Involvement Opportunities
Stakeholders have an additional opportunity to participate in federal facility cleanups in their communities through advisory boards established by the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy.

Technical Assistance to Communities
Community members can access technical information about specific sites through Technical Assistance Grants and Technical Assistance to for Communities.

Technical Assistance Services for Communities (TASC) is an EPA program that provides independent, non-advocacy educational and technical assistance to communities affected by hazardous waste sites regulated by the RCRA and Superfund programs, including sites on federal facilities and tribal land.

Technical Assistance Grants (TAGs) provide money for activities that help communities participate in decision making at eligible Superfund sites. An initial grant of up to $50,000 is available to qualified community groups so they can contract with independent technical advisors to interpret and help the community understand technical information about their site.

A Community Engagement Initiative (CEI) was launched in 2009 by the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) to enhance EPA’s engagement with stakeholders to help them participate in government decisions on land cleanup, emergency preparedness and response, and the management of hazardous substances and waste. Stakeholders include local, state and tribal governments, non-governmental organizations, and community members.

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Federal Facility Cleanup Dialogue

As part of the Community Engagement Initiative, EPA hosted Federal Facility Cleanup Dialogue meetings in October 2010. The purpose of the dialogue was to provide an opportunity for an array of diverse stakeholders to discuss the progress, achievements, and challenges surrounding the cleanup of federally-owned contaminated sites. Dialogue objectives included fostering effective communication among stakeholders, discussing and prioritizing challenges of federal cleanups, and establishing potential next steps to address future challenges of federal facility site cleanups. Meeting summary reports were prepared for the October 20 meeting, which focused on Department of Defense and Department of Energy sites, and for the October 21 meeting, which focused on Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture sites.

In response to stakeholder feedback received at the Dialogue meetings, EPA initiated an effort to streamline the Five-Year Review process and develop community outreach tools. In collaboration with other federal agencies, EPA also began looking at ways to enhance electronic data sharing tools.

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Streamlined Five-Year Review Process (FYR) to Help Communities Participate at Federal Facility Cleanup Sites

During the Dialogue meetings, EPA and other federal agencies discussed with stakeholders the long-term stewardship issues at federal facility cleanup sites and how site cleanup information is shared with communities. Community stakeholders had questions about the availability of timely and accurate information on site cleanup activities and whether site cleanup remedies are working to protect people and the environment. Participants raised concerns about how the Five-Year Review (FYR) report is used and how communities are involved in the FYR process. In response, a federal workgroup was formed with the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and the Department of Interior to address these issues. The federal workgroup focused on how to improve, streamline and more effectively engage communities in the FYR process. Three outreach tools have been developed to help communities better understand and engage in the FYR process. The tools include a community video, training module and a community fact sheet template.

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Enhanced Information-Sharing Tools to Communicate Federal Facility Site Cleanup Information

As another follow-on activity to the Dialogue, EPA is leading an effort to improve the way federal site cleanup information is shared with stakeholders. The goals of this project are to improve community access to site cleanup information and ensure information is up to date, useful and presented within the broader community context (e.g., census data, other environmental data). In particular, we are focusing on improving the accessibility and utility of site information during the later stages of cleanup when face-to-face community engagement activities may decrease.

In September 2012, federal agencies demonstrated their current information sharing platforms and explored potential enhanced tools during a Web-based meeting for stakeholders. Feedback from webinar participants is being incorporated into a set of common principles that agencies can use when sharing information with the public and considering how to enhance the way they deliver information electronically. Improving the content and delivery of environmental information will make is easier for communities to meaningfully engage in the cleanup process. The principles are scheduled to be finalized in early 2014.

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