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George Weber, Inc. Environment (GWE) recently completed an assessment of the Region 8 Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Community Involvement Program (CI Program) at the Libby Asbestos Superfund Site, Montana.

The general purposes of the assessment were to:

  • Develop a better understanding of the site and EPA’s current involvement with the community; and
  • Provide EPA with recommendations potentially improving its CI Program.

EPA had GWE do the assessment because it recognized that collaborative relationships with stakeholders are helpful, if not required, for achieving its responsibilities effectively and efficiently.

GWE developed criteria providing the basis for the assessment comprised of values, principles, and best practices drawn from public participation, risk communication, EPA Superfund Community Involvement guidance documents, collaborative networks, and other related fields.  The assessment used a classic typology of citizen involvement to characterize the CI Program and provide EPA with a strategic road-map for improving it, and relied on cutting-edge communication concepts and best practices.

View from the Libby screening plant (Courtesy (ATSDR)

GWE found that the EPA Libby CI Program generally exceeds minimum Superfund CI guidance requirements and recommendations.  However, potentially EPA could improve CI Program effectiveness and efficiency in four general areas:

  • Using current risk communications principles and best practices, in addition to the older ‘2-way Communication’ approach that it has been using.
  • Determining and documenting current perceptions of a ‘representative’ sample of stakeholders that relate to their potential to collaborate in the remediation effort — and particularly about how these stakeholders perceive EPA’s trustworthiness, credibility, and competence.
  • Developing a structure and process for collaborative problem-solving and decision-making among a ‘representative’ group of stakeholders and EPA, in addition to the current forums that are designed for EPA to inform and consult with stakeholders that may not achieve the value of ‘representativeness’.
  • Developing EPA Libby Team capacities for developing strategic and implementation plans, and preserving institutional memory over time and through changing staff.

GWE made action recommendations consisting of an over-arching strategy and three sets of tactical actions for implementing the strategy for EPA to consider:

Libby, Montana Overlook
  • Adopt a strategy framing its approach for involving Libby stakeholders as a ‘collaborating network’.
  • Determine, document, and analyze the perceptions of a ‘representative’ sample of stakeholders to collaborate in problem-solving and decision-making in order to complete the remediation effectively and efficiently while preserving EPA’s legal responsibility for final decision-making.
  • Develop EPA’s internal capacities for strategically planning, then implementing full stakeholder engagement by training the EPA Libby Team in the ‘collaborating network’ framework; developing mechanisms for preserving institutional memory of Libby stakeholders, their relationships, and how these develop over time; and improving staff capacities for developing strategic and implementation plans.

To download the Executive Summary of the Final Technical Memorandum for the assessment, click here.

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To request an electronic copy of the final report in PDF file format, please click here.

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George Weber, Inc. Environmental (GWE) is providing community involvement support to develop the Community Involvement Plan (CIP) of the Interim Risk Management Plan (IRMP) for three Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS) in Southeast Colorado.

GWE is responsible for supporting standard U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and EPA CERCLA community involvement activities, primarily community interviews, to identify:

  • Major public concerns and perceptions regarding the sties and potential future management and remediation; and
  • Means for developing effective ‘2-way communication’ among the agencies and stakeholders.

The results are being used by Versar Inc., a global project management company and the prime contractor, to provide the basis for their design of the CIP and IRMP in order to protect the public until the USACE can fully investigate the sites and address potential hazards that may remain.

Pueblo FUDS IRMP-CIP Sites

The sites are the former Pueblo Precision Bombing Range (PPBR1) in southeast Pueblo County, Pueblo Air-to- Ground Gunnery Range (PAGGR) in west central Otero County, and Pueblo Precision Bombing Range 2 (PPBR2) in south central Otero County.  The plans are being developed for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with the Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and CERCLA Program, Region 8 Environmental Protection Agency.

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