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Cleanups at Federal Facilities

Community Engagement

As we clean up federal facilities and ensure the long-term protectiveness of human health and the environment, EPA is committed to effectively engaging communities, providing meaningful opportunities to engage with us so we can hear concerns and questions, provide accurate and timely information, and take into account their input. We must further take into account the effect that our cleanup and long-term plans for federal facilities may have on those living in communities disproportionately affected by pollution.

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. Several activities under CEI were focused on federal facilities and communities affected by the contamination and cleanup activities. We held Federal Facility Cleanup Dialogue (Dialogue) meetings, and launched projects to improve transparency during the Five-Year Review process and improve delivery of site cleanup information. 

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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 September 2011, EPA hosted another Dialogue meeting focused on long-term stewardship, including enhancements to the Five-Year Review process. Other topics discussed were information sharing, environmental justice, and community engagement. In addition to EPA, the Departments of Agriculture, DoD, DOE and DOI participated in the Dialogue. Stakeholders represented tribal, state, and local governments; citizen advisory boards; and non-governmental organizations. A meeting summary was prepared and distributed to participants. 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 Data Sharing Tools to Communicate Federal Facility Site Cleanup Information

To improve the way federal facility site cleanup information is shared with stakeholders, EPA is leading an effort to highlight current information platforms and explore enhanced data sharing tools. Federal agencies produce and collect large amounts of site-specific environmental data and have made strides in the way they compile and analyze information electronically. However, at times stakeholders do not know what information is available, or how to access it and determine its relevance.

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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