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Superfund Community Advisory Groups

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What is a CAG?

A Community Advisory Group (CAG) is made up of representatives of diverse community interests. A CAG is designed to serve as the focal point for the exchange of information among the local community and EPA, the State regulatory agency, and other pertinent Federal agencies involved in cleanup of the Superfund site. Its purpose is to provide a public forum for community members to present and discuss their needs and concerns related to the Superfund decision-making process. A CAG can assist EPA in making better decisions on how to clean up a site. It offers EPA a unique opportunity to hear-and seriously consider-community preferences for site cleanup and remediation. However, the existence of a CAG does not eliminate the need for the Agency to keep the community informed about plans and decisions throughout the Superfund process.

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Does My Community Need a CAG?

A CAG can be an effective mechanism for community involvement at almost any site, but are not appropriate for every site. In general, CAGs are a good fit in communities where there is a high level of interest and concern about site activities. CAGs may be beneficial at removal sites, particularly non-time critical removal sites, as well as sites involved in long-term cleanups.

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What is the Process for Creating a CAG?

EPA, in conjunction with appropriate State, Tribal, or local governments, should inform and educate the community about the purposes of a CAG and the opportunities for participating in it. This might include distributing a CAG fact sheet and publishing public notices and news releases about forming a CAG and membership opportunities. Meanwhile, the Agency can assist the community in determining the appropriate size and composition of the CAG, soliciting nominees, and selecting CAG members. The effectiveness of a CAG depends on how well it is set up initially. Often, the more careful attention and work that EPA invests during the CAG formation process, the more smoothly and effectively the CAG tends to operate over the course of the Superfund cleanup process.

If, after all solicitation efforts are completed, there is insufficient community interest to form a CAG, EPA may notify the public through all available outlets to announce that efforts to form a CAG have been unsuccessful. If the outreach efforts are successful and there is sufficient community interest in forming a CAG, the next step may be to hold a CAG information meeting. After a CAG information meeting, a subsequent meeting should focus on the details about CAG structure, operating procedures, and begin the process of determining CAG membership.

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A CAG can be formed at any point in the cleanup process. The earlier a CAG is formed, however, the more its members can participate in and impact site activities and cleanup decisions. 

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Information Meeting

A CAG information meeting can be used to introduce the CAG concept and gauge the community’s interest in forming a CAG. The purpose of the CAG information meeting is to introduce the CAG concept to the community and educate them about a CAG’s purpose, their relationship with EPA, how they are generally structured and how they operate, and to discuss potential membership models. The meeting also is an opportunity to address questions from the community about CAGs and to explain what assistance EPA can provide if the community decides to form one.

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Getting the Word Out

Generally, it is best to use a variety of outreach mechanisms to reach all community members with information about CAGs and to publicize the CAG information meeting. Options will depend on the community, but may include:

  • News releases,
  • Fact sheets, 
  • Public notices in the local news media
  • Flyers,
  • Social gatherings,
  • Community newsletters (in paper and online),
  • Email announcements to a community listserv, or
  • Local website, Facebook, or Twitter page updates.

EPA should make every effort to ensure that all individuals and groups representing community interests are informed about the CAG and are aware of the potential for membership.

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CAG Membership and Makeup

The number of members on a CAG will vary from site to site depending on the needs and composition of the affected community. The CAG should be large enough to adequately reflect the diversity of community but small enough to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate and the group can achieve closure on discussions. When determining the size of the CAG, the community should consider workload and ensure that most segments, points of view, or community groups are represented.

Once size has been determined, CAG members should be selected through a fair and open process. This is essential to maintaining the level of trust necessary for a CAG to operate successfully. The Community Advisory Group (CAG) Guidance provides a number of models to use for CAG member selection.

Membership in the CAG should reflect the composition of the community near the site and the diversity of racial, ethnic, and economic interests in the community. CAG members should be drawn from among residents and owners of residential property near the site; others who may be directly affected by site releases; Native American tribes and communities; minority and low-income groups; local environmental or public interest groups; local government units; local labor representatives; and local businesses.

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CAG Operation

The CAG chair or co-chairs, CAG members, and representatives from EPA or state, tribal or local governments all have important roles to play in the development and operation of the CAG. These responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Serving voluntarily,
  • Committing to serve for an extended period of time,
  • Attending all CAG meetings,
  • Serving as a direct and reliable conduit of information to and from the community, and
  • Representing views of other community members during their service.

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