United States
                        Environmental Protection
                         Office of Emergency
                         and Remedial Response
                         Washington DC 20460
                         Spring 1986
Public  Involvement   in  the
Superfund   Program
 How are local
 citizens involved
 in decisions about
 cleanup actions in
 their communities?
 To guarantee that local citizens  are involved in decisions about
 cleanup actions in their communities,  the U.S.  Environmental
 Protection Agency (EPA) has established a Superfund Community
 Relations Program.  This Program  helps inform citizens in an area
 where a hazardous waste response  action is underway or planned.
 But the goal is not just to provide  information to the local
 community.  Equally important,  the Community Relations Program
 also gives local citizens a voice in decisions about actions that
 may affect them.

      The information that citizens provide to EPA about the history
 of a site is very valuable to EPA in planning a response action.
 Citizens' knowledge about when  and how a site was contaminated has
 helped EPA select the areas in  and around the site where sampling
 and monitoring are needed.  EPA may  also learn about who is
 responsible for a problem from  discussions with community members.
 EPA also considers citizen concerns  in choosing how to clean up
 the site, so that the cleanup actions will deal with the problems
 especially important to the community.

      Community relations activities  are somewhat different during
 a short-term "removal" action and a  longer-term "remedial" action.
 During a removal action, the On-Scene Coordinator (the person  in
 charge at the site) has to protect public health and property
 until the inmediate threat is over.   During such times, the primary
 community relations activity is to inform the community about
 response actions and their effects on the community.  During a
 removal action, there is often  very  little time to involve citizens
 in how the site will be cleaned up because of the urgency of the
   In 1980, Congress passed a law
   called the Comprehensive
  Environmental Response,
  Compensation, and Liability Act
  (CERCLA). CERCLA created a tax
  on the chemical and petroleum
  industries. The money collected
  from the tax goes to a Trust
  Fund to clean up abandoned or
  uncontrolled hazardous waste
  sites. The money has come to be
  called the Super/und. The U.S.
  Environmental Protection
  Agency (EPA) is responsible for
  running the Superfund program.
   Under the Superfund program,
  EPA can:
   Pay for the cleanup of
  hazardous waste sites when
  those responsible for such sites
  cannot be found or are unwilling
  or unable to clean up a site.
   Take legal action to force
  those responsible for hazardous
  waste sites  that threaten public
  health or the environment to
  clean up or pay for the cleanup
  of those sites or reimburse EPA
  for the costs of cleanup.
   The law authorizes two kinds
  of response actions:
   Short-term removal actions
  where immediate actions may be
  taken to address releases or
threats of releases requiring
expedited response.
 Longer-term remedial actions
that stop or substantially reduce
releases or threats of releases of
hazardous substances that are
serious but not immediately
  Response actions may include,
but are not limited to:
 Removing hazardous materials
from the site to an EPA-
approved, licensed hazardous
waste facility for treatment,
containment, or destruction.
 Containing the waste on-site
so that it can safely remain there
and present no further problem.
 Destroying or treating the
waste on-site through
incineration or other innovative
 Identifying and removing the
source of ground water
contamination, and halting
further spread of the
 This fact sheet is one of a
series prepared by the Superfund
Community Relations Program to
help citizens understand how
the Superfund program works.

     During a removal action that lasts  longer  than 45  days or a
 remedial action there is tore opportunity  for citizens  to learn
 about EPA activities and communicate their concerns to  EPA.

 Community Relations Plans

     EPA learns about community concerns by conducting  community
 interviews. These are informal discussions with local residents .and
 governmenT officials, usually at individual's homes or  offices-.
 Through these discussions, EPA learns about the history of the 'site
 and gains a basic understanding of the concerns of  the  community.
 EPA uses this information to prepare a Community Relations Plan
 for sites where removal actions last longer than 45 days and all
 remedial actions.  The Plan outlines in  detail  the  activities  EPA
 will conduct to make sure that local residents  can  express their
 opinions and concerns about the site, and  are kept  informed of any
 actions at the site throughout the Superfund cleanup process.

     There are many ways EPA exchanges information  with the
 community. Typically, one of the first steps is to  set  up an
 information file that contains accurate, up-to-date documents  on
 the site.  The file is usually located in  a public  building that
 is convenient for local residents  such  as a  public school,
 library/ or town hall.  File materials may include  news releases,
 fact sheets, and technical reports about EPA's  activities and  the
 contamination problem at the site.

     A contact person is very important.   Residents may contact
 this person to answer questions about the  site.  This contact,
 usually a Superfund community relations  staff person in the nearest
 EPA Regional Office, can answer questions  throughout the Superfund
 process.  A State staff member will be the contact  person when the
 State manages the cleanup.

     While the information file and contact person  are  normally a
 part of every community relations program, EPA also uses a variety
 of other activities to ensure that local citizens are informed and
 given a chance to participate:

   Small discussion groups in which concerned citizens  can exchange
 information with government officials;

   Large public meetings at which many community members  can
 gather to listen to presentations about  site developments,  raise
 issues,  express their concerns and ask  questions;

   News releases issued to the media announce milestones  in work
 at the site,  such as the beginning of construction;

  Fact sheets summarizing current knowledge about the site's
problems and cleanup options under consideration.

     In scene cases,  EPA may be limited  in the amount o*  information
that it can make available to the public.  For example,  EPA usually
tries to pursue legal action to make those responsible for the
contamination at a site  pay for or conduct the cleanup.   As a

                       result, there may be some sensitive or confidential information
                       that, if disclosed to the public, could damage the government's
                       legal case.

                            Before all major decisions are made on remedial actions at a
                       site EPA gives the public an opportunity to comment.  Community
                       involvement is particularly important during the public comment
                       period provided after the Remedial Investigation/Feasibility  Studfy
                       (RI/FS) is completed.  This report describes the contamination and
                       the response actions being considered.  A copy of the draft RI/FS
                       is placed in the information file, and other copies are made
                       available for public review.  Because the report itself may be
                       quite long and techical, EPA usually prepares and distributes a
                       fact sheet at this time to summarize the results of the study.
                       Community members may also be invited to attend workshops or a
                       public meeting to discuss the response actions.

                            .The feedback that EPA receives from the public during the
                       comment period is one of the factors EPA considers in selecting
                       response actions.  EPA also considers the reliability, the
                       effectiveness and the cost of construction and maintenance of each
Can Citizen Input
Really Influence
EPA Cleanup Plans?
Public comment and involvement have significantly influenced EPA's
plans for cleanups in a number of  instances and citizens have
provided EPA with valuable information about conditions at a site.
For example:

  At a site in Illinois, local citizens and businesses expressed
concern that EPA's proposed cleanup alternative would limit the
use of a nearby lakeshore and harm the town's economy.  /In response
to these concerns, EPA developed another cleanup alternative that
preserved the town's use of the lakeshore

  At a site in Minnesota, local residents expressed a strong
preference for treatment of local  contaminated wells over connec-
tion to the reservoir supply of a  nearby city.  After careful
consideration of information provided by the residents, EPA proposed
a plan to treat the local wells to remove contaminants.

  Local residents are often an excellent source of information.
Many have lived in an area for years and can help identify those
responsible and help locate illegally disposed waste sites in the
neighborhood.  Many times local residents have called the National
Response Center (1-800-424-8802),  a special number set up to
report hazardous materials.that present an imninent threat.

     Although EPA tries to include the community's preferences in
selecting a remedy for the site, requirements of the Superfund law
may lead EPA to select a response  action that is not the community's
first choice, that is, the remedy  that is most effective, considering
cost, reliability and permanence.

     The goal of the Superfund community relations program is to

ensure that citizens are kept as well-informed as possible about
cleanup plans and progress and, at the same time, have a say in
decisions about Superfund actions taken in their communities.
Public involvement in Superfund contributes to sound decisions and
greater protection of public health and the environment.
For further information on the Superfund  Program,
call toll free 1-800-424-9346