Pulling Together: A Guide to Building Collaboration at Hazardous Waste Sites
INTRODUCTION | BACKGROUND | SECTION ONE: ROLES | SECTION TWO: COLLABORATION | SECTION THREE: COMMUNICATION | SECTION FOUR: WORKSHEETS | GLOSSARY | BIBLIOGRAPHY | ADDITIONAL RESOURCES | ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Pulling Together provides users with the ability to communicate effectively with their communities. Through improved communication, agencies enhance the overall cohesiveness and effectiveness of hazardous waste programs. The ability to coordinate and focus activities and share resources minimizes exposure to hazardous substances.
By focusing on agency roles and responsibilities, overcoming barriers, and building on the successes of the involved agencies, users will be able to:
- Define agency roles and responsibilities;
- State the benefits of, and challenges to, interagency collaboration;
- List criteria to measure successful collaboration;
- Evaluate agency efforts at collaboration; and
- Identify opportunities to improve collaboration and site outcomes.
Pulling Together is based on the following assumptions:
- Improving interagency collaboration will improve the quality and quantity of information provided to the community.
- No single agency can adequately address environmental health concerns at a hazardous waste site.
- Citizens will turn to local health departments for information, resources, and other needs; agencies need to be included early and take an active role in community health education regarding the site.
- A successful collaborate effort requires open, honest communication and participation from all of the players.
- The processes that take place once a site becomes active will likely be lengthy, with unforeseen issues.
- As a first step in the Pulling Together process, the group should agree upon a facilitator or partnership leader/facilitator.
For more information about this tool, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pulling Together: A Guide to Building Interagency Collaboration at Hazardous Waste Sites is an online tool that provides agencies with a self-evaluating framework to develop strategies for collaborating with other agencies. By pulling together, agencies will build new relationships and strengthen existing ones to better serve their communities. Pulling Together grew out of NACCHO''s Superfund program for addressing interagency collaboration at hazardous waste sites, and can be tailored to address interagency collaboration on many issues such as land use, preparedness, or other public health issues.
Who should use this tool?
Pulling Together helps local health officials and their community outreach staff ensure that community concerns are effectively addressed at hazardous waste sites. The tool is a useful resource for any level of government agency looking to improve interagency collaboration at a hazardous waste site.
LHDs are often reluctant to get involved in the complexities associated with hazardous waste sites because they are often politicized situations with community frustration and mistrust of the agencies involved. However, these are also the reasons why local health officials and their staff must be involved. By facilitating more effective collaboration among the involved agencies, information may flow more effectively to concerned community members.
Often, health officials will become involved at some stage of the process, whether by choice or necessity; the earlier in the process LHDs become involved, and the more proactive their efforts, the better their position is to gain trust, leverage community resources, and move the remediation process forward.
What's the difference between Interagency Collaboration and Community Collaboration?
Interagency collaboration is the process of coordinating the responsibilities of the agencies involved at hazardous waste sites and focusing them toward the common goal of addressing the environmental health needs of the community by using their unique mandates, resources, and skills. By increasing the quantity and quality of communication among each other, agencies can more efficiently complete their own work and determine the progress of a site.
Because government agencies must adhere to mandates that can restrict their activities, often they are unable to address the community concerns that hazardous waste sites can raise (such as real estate values), and must focus on environmental health issues. Interagency collaboration activities outlined in Pulling Together provide a process for these agencies to work together to address environmental health issues at hazardous waste sites.
Community collaboration is similar, but can focus on different issues and have varying outcomes with regard to the hazardous wastes site. Community collaboration refers to a relationship and the form of cooperation between a LHD, or other agency, and community residents. Because of varying factors in the community such as the skills and resource level of residents, access to health department information, and the frequency of regular communication, the level of community participation can vary greatly. Also, the interests and focus of the community can range outside of the typical public health realm, encompassing issues such as property values or job loss.
Pulling Together focuses on facilitating collaboration between agencies such as the EPA, ATSDR, state and local health and environmental health departments, state environmental agencies, and other agencies that are responding to an environmental health need created by a hazardous waste site. It is critical that these agencies identify their roles and work together early on to develop long-lasting partnerships. Ultimately, the success of remediation efforts at a hazardous waste site can hinge on the ability of agencies to openly and effectively communicate with each other. However, many have found that when the community is not involved or made aware of activities concerning a site in an open and honest way, they may become distrustful of the agencies involved, and feel that they are being intentionally left out or conspired against.
For more information and resources on successful community collaboration, NACCHO has specifically designed tools to facilitate this process: "Don''t Hazard A Guess: Addressing Community Health Concerns at Hazardous Waste Sites," "Improving Community Collaboration: A Self-Assessment Guide for Local Health Departments," and "Assessment to Action: A Tool for Improving the Health of Communities Affected by Hazardous Waste Sites." A comprehensive list of resources is also available in the bibliography section of this guide.
Who Is Included in Interagency Collaboration?
As mentioned, Pulling Together was designed to facilitate collaboration between agencies such as the EPA, ATSDR, state and local health and environmental health departments, state environmental agencies, and other agencies involved at a hazardous waste sites. Even though Pulling Together is not intended specifically for community collaboration, there are situations where community groups should and could be included in the collaborative process. In the case of a site in Sonoma County, CA, where the synthetic chemical perchloroethylene (PCE) had leached into the groundwater, the community, the LHD, the city of Santa Rosa, and the State Water Resources Control Board all worked closely with the neighborhood association of the affected community. The neighborhood association was able to provide important information on the demographics, dynamics, and concerns of the community, and became an important partner in the remediation process. As such, this site may consider including the neighborhood association as a partner in interagency collaboration efforts. For more information on the experience of the County of Sonoma''s Department of Health Services at the West College avenue site, visit NACCHO's database of all the NACCHO Environmental Health Education Project grantees.
Pulling Together takes into account certain situations that might merit the incorporation of not only the governmental agencies and the community into the collaborative process, but also the potentially responsible parties (PRPs) at a site. In the case of Marion, OH, a high school was built on a site formerly occupied by the U.S. Army Marion Engineering Depot that warehoused everything from heavy equipment and spare parts to radioactive materials. After high incidence rates of leukemia were found among graduates of the high school, the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the Ohio EPA, the state health department, and ATSDR became involved in further environmental investigations. In this case, the Army Corps of Engineers was an important agency to involve in the collaborative process because of its previous control over the site and its additional role in remediation. This could be a likely scenario for sites that have been bought by or were previously owned by the state or local government entity.
Essentially, each site is unique and must individually evaluate the appropriate partners for this collaborative effort. NACCHO recommends including agencies and organizations that are looking to improve the health of communities affected by hazardous waste sites in this collaborative process between agencies. The LHD must assess who is and who will be an effective and engaged partner in this process, as this will vary from site to site.
Pulling Together recognizes that open and effective communication is the key to successful interagency collaboration. As a result, it provides users with tools to improve communication with their communities while enhancing the overall cohesiveness and effectiveness of agency efforts at a hazardous waste site. By understanding the roles of other agencies involved at a site, each agency can increase its ability to address public health and environmental health concerns. It is NACCHO''s hope and intention that Pulling Together will guide LHDs towards effective and successful interagency collaboration at hazardous waste sites.
The contents of this guide are based on feedback and information gathered from agency practitioners through surveys and dialogue at a series of regional and state workshops.
In 1997, NACCHO surveyed regional staff at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) about their interactions with local public health agencies. Analysis of the results indicates that agency staff wanted a better understanding of local health department roles and capacities to address hazardous waste remediation. NACCHO worked with EPA, ATSDR, and state and local health agencies to coordinate the Partnerships for Public Health at Hazardous Waste Sites workshops. These workshops were designed to facilitate discussion about how agencies can "pull together" and improve communication and collaboration to enhance cohesiveness, focus their activities, and share resources with each other and the communities they serve. Through these workshops, NACCHO was able to gather practitioner perspectives on collaboration and develop a model for bringing agencies together. Additionally, NACCHO conducted a thorough review of the literature on interagency collaboration. In Pulling Together, practitioner perspectives and experiences are combined with the results of several research efforts on factors related to successful interagency collaboration (Bardach, Wilder, Wondolleck, and Linden). This guide builds on and offers the best of both practice and research.
As with many current environmental and public health issues, the challenges of effectively addressing public health and environmental protection at hazardous waste sites are greater than one agency or discipline can manage. A significant factor that hinders effective communication and collaboration is poorly defined roles and responsibilities.
"No one person or group always has the lead on any site. The lead shifts as a need arises. The shift is smooth because everyone works well together. They realize they all have the same goal. There are fewer overlaps in function—more of a collaborative effort."
— LCP site, Georgia, ATSDR Regional Representative
The web of regulations and agencies assigned to overseeing environmental and public health issues related to hazardous substances is as complex as the environmental health issues related to the hazardous substances themselves. Thus far, the "solution" to the complexity of these technical issues has been to bring together the knowledge, expertise, and resources of agencies working across multiple disciplines. However, with this solution comes the fragmentation of authority and a new challenge: effectively working together across multiple agency boundaries, mandates, authorities, jurisdictions, and cultural differences.
Though federal, state, tribal, and local environmental health agencies have a common goal of improved public health and environmental protection, the means to achieve this goal depend upon the resources, focus, and perspectives of the various agencies as well as the diverse professional training and perspectives of agency staff. These differences are intended to be complementary, but can lead to real or perceived conflict and confusion among involved agencies and the community.
The challenge is to seamlessly leverage these differences to provide the team of individuals working together with more information, expertise, and resources—bringing the best that each agency has to offer to bear on the problem to improve public health and environmental protection. Improvements in science and technology offer one part of the solution, but effective management of hazardous waste sites, and the communities affected by them, requires improvements in interagency collaboration.
Overlapping Roles and Shared Responsibilities
Given the web of responsibilities and authorities created by federal and state regulation, it is often difficult to delineate where one agency's responsibilities end and another agency's begin. For example, two major federal agencies—U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)–are both mandated to protect public health. EPA is the lead agency for site remediation (clean-up) and ATSDR for public health investigation and intervention. Both agencies collect and use health data for different purposes. While EPA collects site samples and health data to determine long-term remediation, ATSDR conducts human health assessments and consultations to determine existing human health exposure and consequences.
"At the beginning of meetings and conference calls, participants introduced themselves, giving their name, the agency they work for, and their or their agency's roles, interest, and mission. This helped to keep the various participants informed of roles and responsibilities, and also to keep the meetings focused".
— Lowell Lufkin, Director of Environmental Health (OH)
Understanding the distinct and overlapping roles and responsibilities of each agency involved is a critical first step to building effective working relationships and garnering the benefits of interagency collaboration. To help you define the roles and responsibilities of various agencies, a brief description of many key agencies is provided below.
Click here for the Roles and Responsibilities Chart, which notes the core roles and responsibilities at hazardous waste sites, and illustrates where the roles and responsibilities overlap among the five key agencies—EPA, ATSDR, the state health agency, the state environmental agency, and local public health agencies (LPHAs).
For more detailed descriptions of each agency's role and responsibility, click on the agency title below.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Local Public Health Agencies (LPHA)
- State Health Agency
- State Environmental Agency
- Community Organizations and Concerned Residents
"Getting Your Ducks in a Row" and the Perception of Secrecy
A tension often exists between the desire to begin interagency collaboration without public participation in order to "get your ducks a row" and the desire to gain the trust, acceptance, and cooperation of the community. Caution should be exercised when choosing to hold meetings that exclude community members. This action can create a perception of secrecy and decision-making behind closed doors. A closed door inevitably leads to the assumption that there is something to hide.
The overlap of roles and responsibilities by multiple agencies may seem confusing, duplicative, and even contradictory, especially to the newcomer and members of the affected community. In fact, much of the conflict at sites between agencies and community members may arise from the perceived lack of coordination or the presence of conflict among agencies. Therefore, effective interagency collaboration is an essential ingredient for effective agency-community interaction. This brief overview of the multiple roles and responsibilities at hazardous waste sites highlights the need for interagency communication and collaboration, not only to accomplish the complex task of site clean up, but also to address the range of community concerns related to the hazardous substances and agency actions at the site.
Interagency teams should discuss and define these roles at specific sites early in the collaborative process to ensure understanding of one another's responsibilities and commitments. Roles and responsibilities should be re-evaluated throughout the multiyear process of site remediation to improve collaboration and communication among all parties. The worksheets listed below should help you get started. The next section, A Framework for Agencies Working Together, will help you build from this understanding of differing roles to developing shared purpose and joint action.
Opportunities and Need for Collaboration
- Sharing key information: community demographics, site history, sampling results, exposure data, and health histories.
- Coordinating data gathering, analysis, and interpretation.
- Utilizing expertise, connections, and resources of various agencies to expedite and improve decision-making.
- Coordinating messages for and outreach to concerned residents.
- Providing a systematic and coordinated approach for incorporating and responding to community concerns.
- Creating a forum for resolving perceived and real interagency conflicts.
- Key Contacts
- Roles and Responsibilities
- Site History and Description
- Community Profile
- Roles and Responsibilities Chart
- Superfund Remediation Process
ATSDR is the public health agency mandated to address human health concerns at hazardous waste sites. ATSDR is funded through Superfund money and sits within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its mission is to "prevent further exposure and adverse human health effects, and diminished quality of life associated with exposure to hazardous substances from waste sites, unplanned releases, and other sources of pollution present in the environment." ATSDR employs a multidisciplinary staff including epidemiologists, physicians, toxicologists, engineers, public health educators, and support staff. ATSDR has an advisory role only; for example, ATSDR can advise medical treatment, but does not provide it. Also, ATSDR advises EPA on health measures, such as providing an alternative water supply for a community or restricting access to a site, but it cannot require EPA to follow these recommendations. For more information see the ATSDR Web site https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/factsheets.html. Here, you will find information on how EPA and ATSDR differ, what ATSDR cannot do under legal mandate, and other useful information.
Primary roles and responsibilities:
- Investigates sites to determine if communities are or were exposed to hazardous substances;
- Performs health studies and related actions—gains greater knowledge of the link between exposure to hazardous substances and adverse human health effects;
- Maintains toxicological profiles that provide descriptions of health effects associated with 300 toxic substances; and
- Maintains registries of people exposed to the most dangerous substances.
- Writes and disseminates health consultations to address community questions about exposure to specific hazardous materials from a specific site;
- Conducts public health assessments to evaluate data and information to make health recommendations;
- Conducts health education to inform the public, physicians, and healthcare providers about the health effects of hazardous substance exposure and how to reduce exposure; and
- Conducts medical monitoring, screening of blood and urine of an "at-risk" population for specific diseases or conditions relating to hazardous waste, and may result in referral for treatment.
- Disseminates public health advisories—notices sent to EPA, state and local agencies, alerting them to a public health threat;
- Provides indirect funding to LPHAs and other organizations;
- Funds research conducted by universities, state agencies, and others studying the relationships between hazardous waste exposures and illness;
- Has Memorandums of Understanding with Department of Energy, Department of Defense, Department of Agriculture, Indian Health Services, and minority foundations, as well as industry partners for conducting research;
- Notifies other agencies involved of the actions taken; and
- Develops/utilizes interagency communications system.
Health consultations provide assessment and service on a specific health issue related to possible human exposure. ATSDR can provide assistance about the potential health impact of exposures, supply information about ways to reduce exposures, or determine appropriate public health measures. ATSDR can be petitioned to conduct a health consultation on non-NPL sites. Health consultations are generally completed within several months.
Public Health Assessments
ATSDR uses environmental, health outcome, toxicological, and community concerns data to undertake a thorough evaluation of the public health impact of a site. If a site poses a public health hazard, ATSDR identifies public health actions that may prevent or reduce exposure, or lessen the impact of that exposure. If a site may pose a public health hazard, ATSDR identifies what information needs to be obtained about the site or the substance in order to determine whether the site poses a public health hazard. Public health assessments are conducted at all NPL sites and may be petitioned at non-NPL sites. They may take up to two years to complete.
EPA was created in 1970 as the federal regulatory agency responsible for "protecting human health and safeguarding the natural environment—air, water, land—upon which life depends," as stated on the EPA Web site. EPA's broad powers include regulation and enforcement. It primarily uses scientists, engineers, lawyers, and analysts to carry out its responsibilities. EPA oversees the remediation (clean-up) process at all Superfund sites and most hazardous waste sites except for military sites. EPA may formally delegate authority to a state agency for oversight of clean-up for non-military sites. For more information, see the EPA Web site at www.epa.gov/superfund.
Primary roles and responsibilities
- Assumes lead role at Superfund sites (see Superfund Remediation Process Flowchart);
- Funds provided in Superfund program for sampling, removal, and remediation of hazardous waste sites;
- Assesses, identifies, and negotiates with the potentially responsible party (PRPs);
- Recovers the costs of remediation through litigation against the PRP, where possible;
- Enforcement authority (permitting and fines);
- Conducts emergency response and removal actions:
- Provides timely response to hazardous waste situations.
- Supplements local cleanup efforts; interacts with locals and media in a positive way.
- Types of responses may include highway or train accidents, drug labs, chemical facilities, pipelines, pesticide fires and midnight dumping.
- Routine Superfund responses include plume projections, toxicological information, disposal, treatment, links to other federal agencies, sampling (air, soil, water, drums/containers), containment, and cleanups;
- Develops and enforces environmental standards in accordance with Federal and State requirements;
- Makes final cleanup decisions (a.k.a. the Record of Decision (ROD). This is usually done with state concurrence;
- Leads relocation of people at sites when necessary;
- Conducts hazardous ranking process to place site on National Priorities List (NPL);
- Performs laboratory certification;
- Testifies on and writes bills pertaining to EPA's Superfund (regulations and funding); and
- Develops and implements health and safety plans at sites.
- Conducts environmental sampling (remedial investigation);
- Ranks sites using Hazardous Ranking System (HRS);
- Interprets environmental data to establish cleanup levels and appropriate action;
- Conducts ecological risk assessments (quantifies for the exposure pathway as well as background levels of a substance);
- Performs feasibility studies/benefits analysis (e.g., compares the costs and technical abilities for various remediation procedures, and their impacts on public health);
- Complies with state and federal laws and communities' acceptance; and
- Based on scientific data, determines the technology to be used at site to treat and clean-up contaminants.
- Solicits public participation in Superfund Process;
- Conducts public meetings and other events;
- Liaison to public;
- Initiates public comment periods;
- Provides Technical Assistance Grant and Environmental Justice grants;
- Conducts media press releases;
- Gives written responses to public comment;
- Conducts community interviews and prepares Community Relations Plan (CRP);
- Establishes contact lists of local government officials, media, and community members;
- Develops public fact sheets; and
- Creates and maintains an information repository at each Superfund site to house documents developed during Superfund process.
- Coordinates parties involved at a site (citizens, local and state agencies, PRPs);
- Uses Army Corps of Engineers as site consultant, and via other Memorandums of Understanding, where needed;
- Coordinates with ATSDR for health-related advice;
- Uses expertise of other agencies in peer review of documents;
- Notifies other agencies involved of actions taken;
- Develops and uses interagency communication system; and
- Work with Coast Guard, Bureau of Land Management, and other federal agencies as needed.
Note: If the state, tribe, or, in rare cases, local agencies have the lead in remediation, they would adopt some of the responsibilities listed above.
Local Public Health Agencies (LPHAs)
"The role of the LPHA in the relationship changes as needs arise. LPHAs have conducted blood sampling, surveys, and lead/paint testing where they are able." – Director of Environmental Health, Marion County Health Department (OH)
LPHAs provide a variety of public health services to protect and ensure the health of the people living in their jurisdictions. Some of these services are inspections, maternal health programs, communicable disease control, health education and promotion programs, lead screening and abatement, family planning, and solid waste management. There are approximately 3,000 LPHAs nationwide. About two-thirds of them serve populations of 50,000 or smaller. The average-sized health department has a staff of 20, with staff sizes ranging from 1 to 21,700. On average, 46 percent of total funds come from state and federal sources; local sources provide 34 percent; and Medicaid, Medicare, and other sources account for the rest. For more information about LPHAs, visit the NACCHO Web site at www.naccho.org.
Local public health agencies (LPHAs) have no statutory authority at hazardous waste sites, and cannot enter intercooperative agreements with ATSDR or be delegated authority by EPA. However, they still play an essential role at hazardous waste sites. In fact, this lack of statutory authority and associated mandates, may enable LPHAs to ensure that site issues are not dealt with in isolation of other public health issues of concern in the community. Local public health officials work to address the individual and community impacts of a site or hazardous substance in the context of the multiple public health as well as socioeconomic factors in the community. As the local governmental presence, local health agencies serve as an immediate point of contact for communities and agencies. Therefore, LPHAs must be informed and capable of addressing community concerns and questions. Additionally, LHPAs can serve in a leadership capacity or assist others with communication and coordination of public health issues among all interested and affected parties. Local public health agencies often take a role in collaborating with community residents due to their close proximity to the site; access to health records; and close connection to community members, local physicians, and media.
"Local health officials have critical roles in identifying community health concerns and populations-at-risk, developing local responses to prevent or minimize exposure to hazardous substances, and ensuring that the responsibilities and commitments of other agencies and parties are carried out" (Don't Hazard A Guess, pg. 18).
Primary roles and responsibilities:
Local Public Health Authority
- Serves as local public contact regarding health issues;
- Identifies populations potentially at risk;
- Issues public health advisories to warn of potential exposure and ways to minimize exposure;
- Takes immediate action to stop continuing exposures (e.g., seal off site, provide drinking water);
- Proposes local ordinances and resolutions; and
- Ensures long-term monitoring and site maintenance.
- Reviews emergency response plan;
- Conducts emergency response;
- Gathers site-specific data, including demographic and background information about the site and community;
- Ensures that proper areas of the site are identified and that localized conditions are addressed;
- Reviews technical studies;
- Collects environmental and biological samples;
- Reviews EPA and ATSDR reports;
- Records reportable diseases, outbreaks, and site information; and
- Maintains information repository (post-remediation).
- Establishes ongoing communication and information sharing with concerned residents;
- Conducts community educational needs assessment;
- Forwards community concerns to appropriate agencies;
- Serves as Public Information Officer; and
- Serves as a community advocate by ensuring that other agencies follow through on their commitments and responsibilities.
- Contacts and organizes local agencies and elected officials;
- Connects local agencies/officials with state and federal officials;
- Provides information on site history, community demographics, and community concerns to other agencies;
- Provides information on authorized and unauthorized land use, affected populations, and possible exposure routes;
- Organizes agency meetings and conference calls;
- Contacts local healthcare providers;
- Serves as local media contact;
- Attends EPA, ATSDR and Community Advisory Group (CAG) meetings; and
- Keeps state and federal agencies informed of and responsive to community concerns.
State Department of Health
State health agencies often have cooperative agreements with ATSDR to perform health assessments and other health-related work. States with cooperative agreements must follow technical guidance developed by ATSDR and are held to the same federal standards. For more information about state health agencies, see the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials' (ASTHO's) Web site www.astho.org.
Primary roles and responsibilities of the State Department of Health:
- Provides epidemiological expertise;
- Collects and analyzes health data; and
- Maintains statewide human health database.
- Informs the community and health professionals about site-specific health factors;
- Performs communication and coordination functions with the public (e.g., create flyers, letters, and posters);
- Apprises ATSDR and EPA Customer Service Branch of community issues/concerns; and
- Writes consultations and public health assessments.
- Can enter into a cooperative agreement with ATSDR to conduct health assessments and consultations (e.g., epidemiological studies, and health education studies);
- Abides by federal regulations, taking action within limits of statutory and regulatory requirements;
- Notifies other agencies involved of actions taken; and
- Develops/uses interagency communications system.
State Environmental Agency
State environmental agencies may take responsibility for aspects of site remediation if authority has been officially delegated by EPA. Generally, state agencies have the primary role at a hazardous waste site during the pre-remedial (conducting Preliminary Assessment and Site Inspection) and post-remedial (long-term operation and maintenance) phases. The state must meet the minimal federal remediation requirements. Thus, they can enforce stricter standards, but cannot weaken the federal standards. For more information, see the Environmental Council of the States Web site.
Primary roles and responsibilities of State Environmental Agency:
- Conducts emergency response;
- Provides toxicological resources (e.g., consultants);
- Sets standards and provides necessary permits;
- Provides regulatory oversight (commenting on reports and recommendations);
- Performs Preliminary Assessment and Site Inspection, to assist with hazardous ranking system;
- Leads CERCLA programs, if authorized;
- Provides, in most cases, funding for 10 percent of the cleanup at NPL sites;
- Handles state Superfund program for non-NPL sites and NPL sites, if authorized; and
- Abides by federal regulations, taking action within limits of statutory and regulatory requirements.
- Collects and analyzes environmental site data; and
- Conducts environmental monitoring (i.e., long-term site maintenance and operation), after remediation process is complete.
- Performs communication, coordination, and community involvement functions (e.g., create flyers, letters, and posters, collects community information);
- Reviews site work plans;
- Provides remediation recommendations to the lead agency;
- Notifies other agencies involved of actions taken;
- Develops/uses interagency communications system; and
- Contacts EPA Customer Service Branch and ATSDR of the Superfund program to make aware of community issues/concerns.
Community Organizations and Concerned Residents
Members of the community are the individuals affected by the site and therefore have a right to participate in the decision-making related to the site. These rights are recognized in federal and state statutes that require that the health assessment and remedial processes be a matter of public record and both EPA and ATSDR employ community involvement coordinators to address community concerns and provide information on site activities. Additionally, public comment and review are actively solicited at particular points in the process to ensure that the selected remedy is "acceptable" to the community. Although these formal requirements are important, broader community engagement is essential to fully capture the essential knowledge and information that only community members will have regarding site history and unrecorded uses, health concerns, and changes overtime.
Community collaboration includes the participation of community members in the designing and implementing of programs and policies. The degree of community collaboration is determined by the degree of partnership between the community and the LPHA, the frequency of regular communication, the equity of decision making, community access to LPHA information, and the skills and resources of the community members. Most critically, community collaboration is a dynamic, ongoing process of working together through which the community is engaged as a partner in public health action.
Effective community collaboration builds and strengthens the relationship between the LPHA and the community. It also enhances the agency's work. The community has critical skills and knowledge which, when incorporated into departmental program planning, development, implementation, and evaluation, will increase the likelihood of success in achieving the goals of programs and projects.
NACCHO continually provides LPHAs and their communities with assessment and planning tools. Assessment and planning are important functions of public health and can help communities to identify and address issues that will improve community health. To assist with these processes, NACCHO has developed other tools, including the following:
A guidance tool designed to assist local health officials in the planning and implementation of a community-based environmental health assessment. The PACE EH methodology consists of 13 interrelated tasks, including project planning, assessment team recruitment, environmental health issue identification, indicator development, and action plan development, that together describe a flexible and collaborative assessment process.
A Web-based, community-wide strategic planning tool for improving community health. Facilitated by public health leadership, this tool helps communities prioritize public health issues and identify resources for addressing them. Community ownership is the fundamental component of MAPP. Because the community's strengths, needs, and desires drive the process, MAPP provides the framework for creating a truly community-driven initiative.
Assessment to Action: A Tool for Improving the Health of Communities Affected by Hazardous Waste
A tool that facilitates collaboration between local public health agencies and communities in decision making throughout a community environmental health education needs assessment process. It provides steps and methods to assess community needs and concerns related to hazardous waste sites, and formulate action steps for addressing environmental health concerns.
The full range of issues created by hazardous waste sites can be adequately addressed only when agencies work together. The complexity of dealing with a Superfund site includes perceived vs. real health threats, various remediation options, links between exposure pathways and health outcomes, and risk communication, to name a few. The involved agencies each have their area of expertise, as discussed in the Roles and Responsibilities section (above). Therefore, agencies must learn to work together to leverage their strengths to the greatest advantage of the community as a whole. At its core, interagency collaboration holds the promise of accomplishing something jointly that one agency alone cannot accomplish. This section will provide the following:
- Definition of Interagency Collaboration.
- Benefits and Uses of Collaboration.
- Challenges to Interagency Collaboration.
- Factors for Success.
- Links to Worksheets.
Definition of Interagency Collaboration There is no standard definition of collaboration, and agencies and individuals engaged in addressing public health and environmental protection at hazardous waste sites may have their own unique definitions. Common to most definitions are shared labor, a shared purpose or goal, and joint ownership of the work, risks, results, and rewards.
Levels of Joint Action
Networking: exchange information.
Coordination: exchange information and link existing activities for mutual benefit.
Cooperation: share resources for mutual benefit and to create something new.
Collaboration: work jointly to accomplish shared vision and mission using joint resources.
Pulling Together defines collaboration as a "...process by which groups come together, establishing a formal commitment to work together to achieve common goals and objectives."
A standard definition of collaboration is less important than a common understanding of the expected relationships and actions among the participating partners. The definition listed under "Levels of Joint Action" (see side box) may be useful in clearly identifying and articulating your expectations and agreements. This clarity will help preempt problems associated with misconceptions or unfounded expectations.
Benefits and Uses of Collaboration Collaboration enables us to accomplish jointly something that one agency alone could not. Many funding agencies have recognized the power that collaboration can bring and are now calling for interagency collaboration as part of the criteria for grantee selection. Following is a list of collaboration benefits:
- Better use of scarce resources conserves limited capital.
- Cost and effort are not duplicated. Fragmentation among services, programs, and initiatives is reduced.
- An agency can create something in collaboration that it could not create on its own.
- Higher-quality, more integrated outcomes for end users.
- Integration of diverse perspectives to create a better appreciation and understanding of the situation.
- Improved communication among agencies, and between agencies and their constituents.
- Increased trust and understanding among individuals and organizations.
- Potential for organizational and individual learning.
- Better ability to achieve important outcomes.
Four major uses of collaborative processes in resource and environmental management are:
- Building understanding by fostering exchange of information and ideas among agencies, organizations, and the public and providing a mechanism for resolving uncertainty.
- Providing a mechanism for effective decision making through processes that focus on common problems and build support for decisions.
- Generating a means of getting necessary work done by coordinating cross-boundary activities, fostering joint management activities, and mobilizing an expanded set of resources.
- Developing the capacity of agencies, organizations, and communities to deal with the challenges of the future.
Case in Point At a site in Sonoma County, CA, the perceived threat of well-water contamination sent a panic through some members of the community. By working closely with the state department of health services, ATSDR, the Water Quality Control Board, mental health providers, and community leaders, the local health department (LHD) not only was able to improve the health risk messages being sent to residents, but they have also made inroads into rebuilding some of the community''s trust. Coordinating activities with these other agencies enabled the LHD to better access resources and respond to their community''s needs. For more information on this project, refer to the Sonoma County West College Avenue Site case study.
Challenges to Interagency Collaboration Too often we expect self-sacrifice from individuals and organizations as they move toward coalition solutions. If we understand that people and organizations may be motivated self-interest, then we can approach a situation by looking for strategies to lessen territoriality and consider self-interest. It is also possible to minimize the effect of territoriality and self-interest by appealing to a larger good.
Most public health and environmental protection professionals are acutely aware of the challenges and failures of collaborative efforts. If collaboration offers so much promise, and there are numerous pushes for collaboration, why does it not happen more and why does it not always work? There are many "how to" guides for collaboration that outline effective, and not-so-effective, strategies. Nevertheless, it is helpful to step back and look at the broader context in which collaboration is expected to function.
Russell Linden, author of Working Across Boundaries: Making Collaboration Work in Government and Nonprofit Organizations (2002), outlines four levels of "hurdles," or challenges to collaboration: individual, organizational, societal, and systemic. The hurdles that may be most challenging in interagency collaboration at hazardous waste sites are the organizational and systemic. A few of the challenges mentioned by practitioners at hazardous waste sites are discussed below. If honestly acknowledged, the barriers of fragmentation and "turf" can be overcome.
Individual Hurdles One of the primary hurdles often identified as a barrier to collaboration by agency personnel working at hazardous waste sites is "turf." Practitioners use this term to include not only the need to define and protect one''s space but also the fear of losing control, autonomy, quality, and resources.
"From a narrow, constituency standpoint, collaboration is distinctly undesirable, because it threatens to blur the agency''s mission and the agency''s political accountability for pursuing it." Eugene Bardach
Organizational Hurdles The agencies involved at hazardous waste sites have unique missions, goals, and authority. These differences are intended to be complementary; however, when coupled with different rules, cultures, and values, interagency collaboration can be challenging. For example, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state environmental agency staff are often trained as engineers while Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and state public health agency staff are trained in epidemiology or health education. These differences in professional background, expertise, and perspective can create enormous challenges in both understanding and valuing the contribution of the other agencies. Approaching Superfund as a complex puzzle of health, environment, economics, and community relations makes the value of bringing in a diversity of expertise more intuitive.
Case in Point One of the lessons learned from the 3M/Dynacolor (3M) and GE/Black & Decker (GE) Sites in Monroe County, NY, was that differing agency roles and responsibilities in the cleanup process create challenging obstacles to collaboration. While the LHD''s work with state agencies allowed each agency to become more familiar with the others'' responsibilities, operations, and capacities, it was a challenge to collaborate on the project because their roles and responsibilities in the cleanup process and public accountability were so different. In the future, the LHD felt that by insuring more buy-in from other state agencies, rather than assuming their involvement in the process, they would be better able to overcome the "agency roles" barrier. For more information, refer to the 3M/Dynacolor (3M) and GE/Black & Decker (GE) Sites, Monroe County, NY case study.
Additionally, agency officials often do not want to give up control over resources and may fear that their missions will be compromised. NACCHO workshop participants stated that these concerns can greatly affect the sharing of information, causing agencies to communicate only when necessary, be guarded with information, and worry that information could come back to haunt them.
Systemic Hurdles Systemic hurdles are critical to recognize in considering interagency collaboration at hazardous waste sites. Public health responsibilities and services are fragmented among hundreds of state, federal, and local agencies with responsibilities for the 10 major federal environmental and health laws. The piecemeal development of laws governing hazardous waste sites adds another layer to the fragmentation of authority. This fragmentation creates a large barrier to and greater need for interagency collaboration.
There are times when interagency efforts that depend on increased relationships and risks might make things worse instead of better. It is important to consider the following factors and the barriers these collaborations pose:
- Ideology—Potential collaborators have substantially differing ideologies, values, and/or beliefs.
- Leadership—Either no one has enough power to bring the key players together or the "wrong person" leads the meetings.
- Power—Power must be shared even if it is not equal among members.
- History—Potential collaborators have a history of past conflict or failure.
- Competition—Potential collaborators maintain existing competition.
- Resources—Lack of necessary personnel, time, and skills to contribute to the effort.
"Collaboration is only a tool, and like any tool, it works well only when applied to an appropriate task." Russell Linden, 2002
If any of the factors above are present, agencies may want to consider starting their work together with less intensity (e.g., through sharing and networking) and working to build the necessary relationships and trust prior to engaging in a collaborative effort with a greater level of shared resources, risks, and rewards.
Factors for Success As stated in the introduction, NACCHO developed the Pulling Together tool out of a series of interagency collaboration workshops. The following represents a summary of practitioner perspectives on factors contributing to success:
- Long-term relationships with each member of the team.
- Openness and acceptance of ideas and opinions.
- Each person appreciates the contributions of everyone else.
- Issues and problems are identified and resolved early and continuously, as necessary.
- Everyone works hard to continually keep the team up to date and informed.
- Various agencies'' members appreciate the differences between them as being overall necessary and helpful.
- Support of management demonstrated by providing guidance, training, and direction to intra-agency staff.
Numerous research efforts have been undertaken in the past decade to identify the critical factors for success in collaboration. In Working Across Boundaries: Making Collaboration Work in Government and Nonprofit Organizations, Russell Linden provides a framework for collaboration, which includes the following:
- The basics are in place.
- The principals have open, trusting relationships with one another.
- The stakes are high—task is important, results are visible, consequences are large and will be felt directly.
- The participants include a constituency for collaboration—a group who strongly believes that a collaborative effort is in their interest, who want to support it and have influence over the other parties involved.
- The leadership follows collaborative principles.
These factors were identified in all of the research reviewed and confirmed by practitioners. Public health and environmental protection officials working at hazardous waste sites consistently pointed to the essential role of personal relationships and trust in effectively working together. Central to Linden''s framework is the importance of relationships, trust, and leadership. Linden describes the following key elements, termed "the basics," for sustained collaboration:
- The parties have a shared purpose or goal that they care about but cannot achieve on their own.
- The parties want to pursue a collaborative solution, now, and are willing to contribute something to achieve it.
- The right people are at the table.
- The parties have an open, credible process.
- The initiative has a champion, someone with credibility and clout who makes this a high priority.
Regardless of front-end planning and developing relationships for collaboration, the long-term nature of most hazardous waste site cleanups often leads to personnel turnover that can cause a loss of established relationships, trust, and valuable institutional memory. As such, it is important to address personnel turnover in your communication plan so that the impact to the effort is minimized.
"Trust and confidence form the soil from which collaboration grows. The essence of collaboration is joint effort towards a common goal, which means we are reliant on each other. If we don''t trust the other to follow through, if we don''t have confidence in the other''s abilities, it won''t work. It''s as simple, and important as that. Detailed memos of understanding won''t replace mutual trust and confidence." Russell Linden, 2002
Linden offers the following checklist for evaluating your collaborative efforts:
- Discussed the parties'' interests and goals regarding the collaboration?
- Agreed that there is a compelling, shared interest that the parties want to pursue, now?
- Felt comfortable asking questions, discussing doubts and concerns?
- Got people at the table who can speak for all of the stakeholder organizations?
- Considered forming a smaller core group to take on certain leadership and management tasks (if the number of people involved has grown into the double digits)?
- Spent time in the early phases getting to know one another?
- Periodically asked if the process is clear, and if the parties are comfortable with it?
Worksheets All the worksheets have been designed to help facilitate and improve your collaboration efforts, so go to Section Four and select the worksheets that will be most appropriate for your situation. They can be used individually, in their existing groups, and/or in the sequence provided.
According to Healthy People 2010, health communication encompasses the study and use of communication strategies to inform and influence individual and community decisions that enhance health. It links the domains of communication and health and is increasingly recognized as a necessary element of efforts to improve personal and public health.
Concerns over hazardous waste sites can be mitigated when open and honest health communication takes place. Communication between agencies is of the utmost importance if strong, ongoing relationships are to be established and maintained. Each organization has unique skills and qualities that can complement efforts of other involved parties. However, only through effective communication can complementary activities and efforts be realized and taken advantage of.
In addition to communicating with other agencies, local health departments (LHDs) must be mindful of the importance of communicating with groups such as the community, elected officials, and the media. These groups often look to the LHD for information and assistance in dealing with hazardous waste sites. However, if they are not coming to the LHD, then the LHD must proactively seek them out and spur their interest in the available information.
Because both community members and the media will be in search of information, if they are not obtaining their information from the LHD, they will seek it elsewhere, where it may be less credible or more biased. Whether a community member is looking for information on whether it is safe to drink the water, or a journalist is looking to provide correct and credible information to the public, the LHD can serve as an effective communication liaison between the public and all agencies involved at the site. This will help to establish an effective dialogue and ensure that the community is involved in environmental problem solving.
Open communication will also ensure that community concerns are identified and addressed. This is particularly important when communicating risk, whether to the community or to other interested parties, as perceptions will likely influence their behaviors down the line.
LHD staff must have appropriate communication techniques that will allow them to effectively communicate with other agencies, as well as with other stakeholders such as the community and the media. This includes communicating risk, communicating with various media, and communicating with elected officials.
This section will highlight major themes and provide useful tips, but should not be seen as an exhaustive resource on risk communication, or communicating with the community, media, and elected officials.
1. How do you identify a person(s) within the group to take lead?
Frequently, the person who convenes the meeting assumes the leadership role by default, at least as a facilitator for the first meeting. After introductions, the facilitator should discuss the purpose of convening and the goal/benefits of collaboration. It should be stated that to be effective, the collaborative process needs to have a long-term leader or "point person" who will be selected by the end of the meeting by informal discussion or through a formal "secret ballot". The potential role and qualities of the "point person" should be identified. Generally, a natural leader emerges during the meeting; if someone volunteers to be the point person, the group must agree to the selection. Ideally, this person should be one associated with the least amount of or no regulatory/enforcement function in the situation.
Tools for Initiating and Evaluating Interagency Collaboration
In this section, we offer a series of worksheets to help you collect information to evaluate current efforts and to guide future efforts in working together.
The first set of worksheets is specific to hazardous waste sites and will help agencies identify key partners, information, and history related to a particular site. The second set of worksheets, designed for members of your collaborative, will enhance organizational understanding, identify areas of common purpose, and help potential collaborators develop a shared vision and mission. The third set of worksheets provides assistance in developing and implementing a joint work plan. The last set of worksheets provides a framework for agencies to evaluate their efforts with working together and to identify factors that could impede or enhance their collaborative ability.
Each worksheet will specify whether it can be completed individually or needs a group effort. The worksheets are grouped by subject area and are listed in the suggested order for completion.
Not all collaborative efforts will need to complete every worksheet. In certain cases, a worksheet will reference another worksheet, which we suggest you complete before or after the one you have selected. Stages of Collaboration
"Poor relationships will kill almost any alliance; without strong relationships there's no trust, and without trust there will be no collaboration. When trust has been built, people are usually willing to give one another the benefit of the doubt and take small risks with each other." (Linden, p. 94)
In getting started, it is important to recognize that forging effective interagency relationships and activities requires time, effort, and patience. Collaboration generally proceeds through a series of stages. Linden likens these to the stages in a romantic relationship: courtship, getting serious, commitment, and leaving a legacy. Alternately, Winer and Ray's guidance builds from the individual to the organization to the community.
This glossary is a compilation of glossaries from the following sources:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Road Map to Understanding Innovative Technology Options for Brownfields Investigation and Clean Up. Washington, DC, 1997.
Kathy Dalton. Reclaiming Lost Ground: A Resource Guide for Community Based Brownfields Development in Massachusetts. Boston: Tufts University/Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, 1998.
Lizette Hernandez with Torri Estrada and Catalina Garzon. Building Upon Our Strengths: A Community Guide to Brownfields Development in the San Francisco Bay Area. San Francisco: The Urban Habitat Program, 1999.
National Association of County and City Health Officials. Don't Hazard a Guess: Addressing Community Health Concerns at Hazardous Waste Sites. 1995.
Sierra Club. Brownfields Guidance Document. February 1996.
For additional Superfund-related terms and acronyms, visit EPA's Superfund Acronyms Web site.
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is a federal public health agency and is part of the Public Health Service in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Created by Superfund legislation in 1980, ATSDR's mission is to prevent exposure and adverse human health effects and diminished quality of life associated with exposure to hazardous substances from waste sites, unplanned releases, and other sources of pollution in the environment. Through its programs—including surveillance, registries, health studies, environmental health education, and applied substance-specific research—and by working with federal, state, and local government agencies, ATSDR acts to protect public health.
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASHTO) The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) is the national nonprofit organization representing the state and territorial public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. Staff members provide information to state health agencies and ASTHO members and alumni on public policy. The organization addresses a variety of key public health issues and publishes newsletters, survey results, resource lists, and policy papers that assist states in the development of public policy and in the promotion of public health programs at the state level.
Brownfields Abandoned, idled, or underused industrial or commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) definition excludes sites contaminated with petroleum.
Community Action Group (CAG) [[make consistent]] A community advisory group (CAG) is made up of representatives of diverse interests from within the community. The CAG provides a public forum for community members to discuss their concerns related to the hazardous waste site and the decision-making process. This group also provides a way for agencies, such as ATSDR, the EPA, and state environmental and health departments, to not only be informed of the community's health and information needs and concerns, but also to distribute information to the community. For more information on forming a CAG, go to the EPA's Web site: https://www.epa.gov/superfund/superfund-community-advisory-groups.
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) A federal law passed in 1980 created a special tax against chemical and petroleum manufacturers that funds a trust fund, commonly known as Superfund, to be used to investigate and clean up abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. CERCLA required for the first time that the EPA step beyond its traditional regulatory role and provide response authority to clean up hazardous waste sites. The EPA has primary responsibility for managing cleanup and enforcement activities authorized under CERCLA. Under the program, the EPA can pay for cleanup when parties responsible for the contamination cannot be located or are bankrupt, deceased, or unwilling or unable to perform the work. When responsible parties refuse to cooperate, the EPA can take legal action to force parties responsible for contamination to clean up the site or reimburse the federal government for the cost of the cleanup. See alsoSuperfund.
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Information System (CERCLIS) A database that serves as the official inventory of hazardous waste sites throughout the country. CERCLIS also contains information about all aspects of hazardous waste sites, from initial discovery to deletion from the National Priorities List (NPL). The database also maintains information about planned and actual site activities and financial information entered by EPA regional offices. CERCLIS records the targets and accomplishments of the Superfund program and is used to report that information to the EPA Administrator, Congress, and the public. See also National Priorities List and Superfund.
Disposal Site Any structure, well, pit, pond, lagoon, impoundment, ditch, landfill, or other place or area, excluding ambient air or surface water, where uncontrolled oil and or hazardous material has come to be located as a result of any spilling, leaking, pouring, abandoning, emitting, emptying, discharging, injecting, escaping, leaching, dumping, discarding, or other disposing of such oil and/or hazardous material.
Early Action Early Action, sometimes called a Removal Action, is an action taken when a hazardous waste site may become a threat to humans or the environment in the near future. Early Actions take anywhere from a few days to a few years and can be taken at any point in the Superfund process. Some sites can be completely cleaned up through a Removal Action and other sites may require long-term action. Early Actions may include: 1) cleanup or removal of substances threatening to contaminate the environment; 2) installation of security fences to limit access to the site; 3) provision of alternative water supplies; 4) temporary evacuation and housing of at-risk individuals; and 5) any emergency assistance provided under the Disaster Relief Act.
Enforcement Action An action taken by the EPA under its authority granted by various federal environmental statutes, such as CERCLA, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), CAA, CWA, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and others. For example, under CERCLA, the EPA may obtain voluntary settlement or compel potentially responsible parties (PRP) to implement removal or remedial actions when releases of hazardous substances have occurred.
Environmental Justice The effort to reduce the following: racial and economic discrimination in environmental policymaking and rules; the unequal enforcement of environmental regulations and laws; the deliberate targeting of communities with a larger proportion of minorities and economically depressed people for toxic waste facilities; and the official sanctioning of the life-threatening presence of hazardous waste and pollutants in minority communities.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) See United StatesEnvironmental Protection Agency (US EPA).
Hazard Ranking System (HRS) The primary screening tool used by the EPA to assess the risks posed to human health or the environment by abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. Under the HRS, sites are assigned scores on the basis of the toxicity of hazardous substances present and the potential that those substances will spread through the air, over soil surface, in water, or in groundwater, taking into account such factors as the proximity of the substance to nearby populations. Scores are used in determining which sites should be placed on the NPL. See also National Priorities List.
Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (HSWA) 1984 amendments to RCRA that require phasing out land disposal of hazardous waste and add minimum technology requirements. See also Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
Hazardous Substance As defined under CERCLA, any material that poses a threat to public health or the environment. The term also refers to hazardous wastes as defined under the RCRA. Typical hazardous substances are materials that are toxic, corrosive, ignitable, explosive, or chemically reactive. If a certain quantity of a hazardous substance, as established by the EPA, is spilled into the water or otherwise emitted into the environment, the release must be reported. Under the legislation cited above, the term excludes petroleum, crude oil, natural gas, natural gas liquids, or synthetic gas usable for fuel.
Hazardous Waste A waste or combination of wastes that because of quantity, concentration, or physical, chemical, or infectious characteristics may cause an increase in serious, irreversible, or incapacitating illness. Hazardous wastes also pose a substantial hazard to human health, safety, public welfare, or the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, used, or disposed of. However, it does not include solid or dissolved materials in irrigation return flows or industrial discharges that are point sources subject to permits under Section 402 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1967 (as amended), or source, special nuclear, or by-product material as defined by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as further described in 310 CMR 30.000.
Health Assessment See Public Health Assessment.
Health Consultation An ATSDR health consultation provides advice on a specific public health issue related to real or possible human exposure to toxic material. It is a way to respond quickly to a need for health information on toxic substances and to make recommendations for actions to protect the public's health. Staff evaluate information available about toxic material at the site, determine whether people might be exposed to it, and report what harm exposure might cause.
Interagency Collaboration Interagency collaboration is the process of coordinating the responsibilities of the agencies involved at a hazardous waste site. These agencies, which include the EPA, ATSDR, the local public health agency (LPHA), and state and local environmental agencies among others, are involved with addressing community concerns—about health issues or environmental quality—surrounding a site. Outcomes of interagency collaboration could include reduction of duplicative efforts among agencies, improved coordination of risk communication and public health messaging, and/or improved ability of agencies to address the environmental health needs of the community.
Medical Monitoring Screening of an at-risk population for specific diseases or conditions relating to hazardous wastes; may result in referral for treatment.
National Priorities List (NPL) The EPA's list of the most serious uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites identified for possible long-term remedial response under Superfund. Inclusion of a site on the list is based primarily on the score the site receives under the HRS. Money from Superfund can be used for cleanup only at sites that are on the NPL. The EPA is required to update the NPL at least once a year.
Potentially Responsible Party (PRP) An individual or company (such as owners, operators, transporters, or generators of hazardous waste) that is potentially responsible for, or contributing to, the contamination problems at a Superfund site. Whenever possible, tge EPA requires PRPs, through administrative and legal actions, to clean up hazardous waste sites they have contaminated.
Preliminary Assessment/Site Inspection (PA/SI) Preliminary assessment/site inspection is the initial two-phase study of a potential Superfund site. A preliminary assessment is done to collect and review available information. If more information is needed, then a site inspection is done. The preliminary assessment, conducted by either the EPA or the state environmental agency, gathers data on how the public could be exposed to hazardous substances at a site, determines if any short-term cleanup work is needed, and eliminates from further consideration sites that do not pose risks to public health or the environment. The SI builds upon the data collected in the PA and includes on-site and off-site sampling and field investigation. From this data, the EPA will score the site according to the Hazard Ranking System.
Public Health Advisory A Public Health Advisory is a way for ATSDR to respond quickly when hazardous substances released into the environment pose an immediate and significant danger to people's health. It is a notice sent directly from ATSDR's administrator to EPA's administrator that alerts the EPA to a public health threat. Other government agencies—such as state and local health and environmental agencies—are also notified about the problem. ATSDR works with all these agencies to take action to protect the public.
Public Health Assessment Public Health Assessments are conducted to determine appropriate public health action aimed at addressing community health concerns and evaluating relevant community-specific health outcome data.
Record of Decision (ROD) A legal, technical, and public document that explains which cleanup alternative will be used at a site. The ROD is based on information and technical analysis generated during the remedial investigation and feasibility study (RI/FS) and consideration of public comments and community concerns.
Remedial Design and Remedial Action (RD/RA) The step in the cleanup process that follows the remedial investigation and feasibility study (RI/FS) and selection of a remedy. A remedial design (RD) is the preparation of engineering plans and specifications to implement the remedy properly and effectively. The remedial action (RA) is the actual construction or implementation of the remedy. See also Remedial investigation and feasibility study.
Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS) This step in the cleanup process is conducted to gather sufficient information to support the selection of a site remedy that will reduce or eliminate the risks associated with contamination at the site. The remedial investigation (RI) involves site characterization—collection of data and information necessary to characterize the nature and extent of contamination at the site. The RI also determines whether the contamination presents a significant risk to human health or the environment. The feasibility study (FS) focuses on the development of specific response alternatives for addressing contamination at a site.
Remediation The construction or implementation phase of a Superfund site cleanup that follows the remedial design.
Removal Action A short-term effort designed to stabilize or clean up a hazardous waste site that poses an immediate threat to human health or the environment. Removal actions include removing tanks or drums of hazardous substances found on the surface and installing drainage controls or security measures, such as a fence at the site. Removal actions also may be conducted to respond to accidental releases of hazardous substances. CERCLA places time and money constraints on the duration of removal actions.
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) RCRA is a federal law enacted in 1976 that established a regulatory system to track hazardous substances from their generation to their disposal. The law requires the use of safe and secure procedures in treating, transporting, storing, and disposing of hazardous substances. RCRA is designed to prevent the creation of new, uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.
Risk Assessment The amount of risk assessed associated with the effect on public and environmental health and safety from a polluting source. In environmental law, the qualitative and quantitative evaluation of the risk posed to human health and the environment by the presence or potential presence of hazardous materials. In finance, the evaluation of the risk associated with making a loan.
Site Inspection (SI) A technical phase that follows a preliminary assessment designed to collect more extensive information on a hazardous waste site. The information is used to score the site using the Hazardous Ranking System to determine whether response action is needed. Strict Liability A concept under CERCLA that empowers the federal government to hold PRPs liable without proving that the PRPs were at fault and without regard to a PRP's motive. PRPs can be found liable even if the problems caused by the release of a hazardous substance were unforeseeable, the PRPs acted in good faith, and state-of-the-art hazardous waste management practices were used at the time the materials were disposed of. See also Potentially Responsible Party.
Superfund The trust fund that provides for the cleanup of hazardous substances released into the environment, regardless of fault. The Superfund was established under CERCLA and subsequent amendments to CERCLA. The term Superfund is used also to refer to cleanup programs designed and conducted under CERCLA and its subsequent amendments. See also Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.
Superfund Amendment and Reauthorization Act (SARA) The 1986 act amending CERCLA that increased the size of the Superfund trust fund, established a preference for the development and use of permanent remedies, and provided new enforcement and settlement tools. See also Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.
Superfund Innovative Technology Evaluation (SITE) Program An effort established by the EPA in 1986 to advance the development, evaluation, and commercialization of innovative treatment technologies for assessing and cleaning up hazardous waste sites. The program provides an opportunity for technology developers to demonstrate their technologies' ability to successfully process and remediate hazardous waste. The SITE program has four components: the Emerging Technology Program, the Demonstration Program, the Monitoring and Measurement Technologies Program, and the Technology Transfer Program.
Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) Program A grant program that provides funds for qualified citizens' groups to hire independent technical advisors to help them understand and comment on technical decisions relating to Superfund cleanup actions at NPL sites.
United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) is the federal regulatory agency charged with all aspects of Superfund related to the cleanup (remediation) of the National Priorities List (NPL) sites. This includes expending monies and seeking reimbursement of the funds from potentially responsible parties. The EPA's 10 regional offices are responsible for preparing and carrying out the cleanup actions at each site. In addition, the EPA is responsible for the daily enforcement of site activities, which differ from site to site. Any legal activities related to the site will be handled by the Department of Justice.
Below is a list of the literature reviewed in the development of this publication. For additional references on collaboration see: Collaboration Resource List. Compiled by Kirsten Nielsen, Amherst H. Wilder Foundation Publishing Center. January 2003.
Bardach, Eugene. Getting Agencies to Work Together: The Practice and Theory of Managerial Craftsmanship. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1998. pp. 11, 26–27, 307–308. Offers a framework for understanding successful interagency collaboration—craftsmanship theory—
that simultaneously builds agency capacity and contributes to the public good.
Berkowitz, Bill and Tom Wolff. The Spirit of the Coalition. Washington, DC:
American Association of Public Health, 2000. This practical guide explores
the use of community coalitions to change local community life. Uses
experiences and reports from existing coalitions to provide guidance on
starting and operating a community coalition.
Dukes, E. Franklin, Karen Firehock, Michael Leahy, and Mike Anderson.
Collaboration: A Guide for Environmental Advocates. Charlottesville:
Institute for Environmental Negotiation at the University of Virginia,
Wilderness Society, and National Audobon Society, 2001. Explores
the use of collaborative processes in environmental decision-making.
Questions the appropriate use of the approach in preserving and
protecting the environment and outlines issues to consider prior
to selecting this process.
Gray, Barbara. Collaborating: Finding Common Ground for Multiparty
Problems. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1989. Describes the need
for collaboration; its dynamic processes: conflict, politics, and power;
various designs for collaborations; and the need to move toward a
Himmelman, Arthur T. "Communities Working Collaboratively for a Change."
Resolving Conflict: Strategies for Local Government. Edited by
Margaret S. Herrman. Washington, DC: International City/County
Management Association, 1994. pp. 24–27. Presents two models of power
and decision-making in collaboration—betterment and empowerment—
including the key components and activities of each, as well as how to
move from betterment to empowerment.
Johnson, Kathryn, Wynne Grossman, and Anne Cassidy, Editors.
Collaborating to Improve Community Health; Workbook and Guide to Best
Practices in Creating Healthier Communities and Populations. The
Healthcare Forum. Offers principles for successful collaborative efforts and
definitions for two primary strategies: systems thinking and sustainability.
Provides a framework from development through evaluation of a
collaborative effort. This practical book then provides detailed information
of the key steps in collaboration along with worksheets and case studies
of best practices.
Kaye, Gillian and Tom Wolff. From the Ground Up! A Workbook on Coalition
and Community Development. Amherst, MA: AHEC/Community Partners,
1991. This workbook explores principles of success in coalition building
and community development. Practical strategies and worksheets support
Linden, Russell. Working Across Boundaries: Making Collaboration Work in
Government and Non-Profit Organizations. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, John Wiley & Sons, 2002. Practical guide for nonprofit and government
professionals. Explores the interpersonal and organizational forces that
often inhibit collaboration, and offers strategies to address them.
Mattessich, Paul, Marta Murray-Close, and Barbara Monsey. Collaboration:
What Makes It Work?2nd Edition. Saint Paul, MN: Amherst H. Wilder
Foundation, 2001. A review of research literature on factors influencing
successful collaboration. The report includes a description for each factor,
implications for collaborative efforts, and illustrations from case studies.
Mattessich, Paul, Marta Murray-Close, and Barbara Monsey. The Wilder
Collaboration Factors Inventory. Saint Paul, MN: Amherst H. Wilder
Foundation, 2001. A tool for assessing how a collaboration is doing on the
20 success factors described in the publication listed above.
National Network for Collaboration. "Collaboration Framework: Addressing
Community Capacity." Fargo, ND: National Network for Collaboration,
Winer, Michael and Ray, Karen. Collaboration Handbook: Creating,
Sustaining, and Enjoying the Journey. St Paul, MN: Wilder Research
Center, Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, 1994. Provides detailed
information on initiating a collaboration, setting goals, determining
roles, creating an action plan, and evaluating results.
Wondolleck, Julia M. and Steven L. Yaffe. Making Collaboration Work: Lessons
from Innovation in Natural Resource Management. Washington, DC: Island
Press, 2000. Reviews the literature of theory and practical case studies in
using interagency and community collaboration for natural resource
Related NACCHO Documents
NACCHO, Assessment to Action: A Tool for Improving the Health of
Communities Affected by Hazardous Waste Sites. NACCHO,
Washington, DC. July 2002. Provides guidance for working with
communities in conducting a health and educational needs
assessment and action plan.
NACCHO, Don''t Hazard a Guess: Addressing Community Health Concerns
at Hazardous Waste Sites. NACCHO, Washington, DC. June 1995.
Provides information on the Superfund decision-making processes in
order to help local health officials determine their level of participation and
improve their contributions. It offers the primary framework for local
public health leadership on issues related to hazardous waste.
NACCHO, Improving Community Collaboration: A Self-Assessment Guide
for Local Health Departments. NACCHO, Washington, DC. 1997. Focuses
on agency-community collaboration and on agency self-assessment of
culture, attitudes, and mechanisms for engaging the community as full
and equal partners.
NACCHO, Protocol for Assessing Community Excellence in Environmental
Health (PACE EH). NACCHO, Washington, DC. May 2000.
This section provides a list of all the resources listed in the various sections of the tool, and additional resources that maybe useful for developing interagency collaboration.
Collaborating to Improve Community Health, developed by the Healthcare Forum (1997), demonstrates how key players from local governments, businesses, healthcare organizations, school boards, churches, and police departments can be turned into a team, working together to make their communities better places. The workbook provides information on strategic planning, convening the community, and empowering emerging leaders. For more information, contact Josey-Bass Publishing at (415) 433-1740.
Assessment to Action: A Tool for Improving the Health of Communities Affected by Hazardous Waste Sites. This NACCHO publication (July 2002) provides guidance for working with communities to conduct a health and educational needs assessment and action plan.
Don't Hazard a Guess: Addressing Community Health Concerns at Hazardous Waste Sites. This NACCHO publication (June 1995) provides information on the Superfund decision-making processes to help local health officials determine their level of participation and improve their contributions. It offers the primary framework for local public health leadership on issues related to hazardous substances.
Improving Community Collaboration: A Self-Assessment Guide for Local Health Departments. This NACCHO publication (1997) focuses on agency-community collaboration and on agency self-assessment of culture, attitudes, and mechanisms for engaging the community as full and equal partners. Protocol for Assessing Community Excellence in Environmental Health (PACE EH). This NACCHO publication (May 2000) offers guidance for local health officials in conducting a community-based environmental health assessment and creating an accurate, verifiable profile of the community's environmental health status. The process is designed to improve decision making by taking a collaborative community-based approach. The methodology takes the user through a series of steps to engage the public, collect relevant information pertaining to community environmental health concerns, rank issues, and set local priorities for action.
Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships (MAPP), tip sheet on Engaging the Community provides information to keep in mind when working with the community and helpful tips to fully engage stakeholders.
CDCynergy (http://www.cdc.gov/communication/cdcynergy.htm) is a CD-ROM used for planning, managing, and evaluating public health communication programs. Developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this tool is used to guide and assist users in designing health communication interventions within a public health framework.
MAPP is a strategic planning tool that uses the community's strengths, needs, and desires to identify priority health issues and the resources to address them. Among its many resources, the tool includes a section on Engaging the Media where you can find helpful hints for working with the media and also for media interviews.
Trading Shoes: Risk Communication Strategies is an article written by Patricia Ellis, a hydrologist with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), that appeared in the June 2004 edition of LUSTLine Bulletin. The article includes community perspectives, hints for strategic communication planning, explanations on how to establish trust and credibility, and a list of suggested readings. The article appears on page 24 of the report.
A Guide to Building Interagency Collaboration at Hazardous Waste Sites
Many people have provided ideas, insight, resources, and assistance in the production of this workbook. First and foremost, we would like to thank those local public health officials and their staff, state health and environmental officials, and federal partners who spoke at and helped organized the Public Health Partnerships at Hazardous Waste Sites workshops in Atlanta (1998), Chicago (1999), and Helena (2000). Those workshops provided the foundation of knowledge that made this publication possible. Among the participants at those workshops who helped NACCHO refine the document based upon their experiences, we would like to thank:
Diana Barret, EPA; Tom Dunlop, Aspen/Pitkin County (CO) Health Department; Kathryn Evans, ATSDR; Pam Hillary, EPA; Derrick Kimbrough, EPA; Lowell Lufkin Marion County (OH) Health Department; David Ouderkirk, EPA; Sonya Pennock, EPA; Chris Poulet, ATSDR; Catherine Roberts, EPA; Bob Safay, ATSDR; Chris Rosheim, ATSDR; Wendy Thomi, EPA.
Special thanks to Christine Rosheim, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, for her guidance and support throughout all phases of this project.
Thanks to Margaret Swan for conducting a usability study of the tool and Web site. And many thanks to those who participated in the study: Laura Barnthouse, County of Sonoma Department of Health Services; Patricia Beckenhaupt, Northeast District Department of Health; Neil Sass, Alabama Public Health; Robert Washam, Martin County (FL) Health Department; Bob Watkins, Elkhart County Health Department; Sarah Weppner, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
The NACCHO Superfund Project Team who were responsible for developing and finalizing the tool:
Heidi Urquhart, Program Manager; Jessica Solomon, Program Associate; Ted Henson, Intern; Tracy Johnson, Administrative Assistant; Heidi Klein, Consultant; Karen Roof, Program Manager.
Finally, a great deal of thanks to the contributors and reviewers, who provided valuable guidance throughout the development of the tool:
Laura Barnthouse, County of Sonoma Department of Health Services; Heidi Baumgartner, Program Associate, NACCHO; Pat Carey, EPA; Cheryl Connelly, Senior Advisor, NACCHO; Laura Harden ATSDR, NACCHO; Richard Hofrichter, Senior Research Associate, NACCHO; Vincent Lafronza, Senior Advisor, NACCHO; Jacquelynn Meeks, Saint Louis County Department of Health, NACCHO; Elaine O'Keefe, Stratford (CT) Health Department, NACCHO; Jane Perry, Georgia Division of Public Health; Beth Resnick, Associate Division Director, NACCHO; Jonathan Schwartz, Senior Analyst, NACCHO; Suzanne Wells, EPA; former and current members of the NACCHO Environmental Health and Prevention Advisory Committee. Thanks to Brenna Thibault, Publications Manager, NACCHO, for a superb job of editing.
This report was supported in whole by funds from the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act trust fund through a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.