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Citizen's Excellence in Community Involvement Award

Through this annual award, EPA recognizes individuals or a community group for making a significant contribution to a Superfund cleanup. Each spring, EPA's regional offices nominate community members who have demonstrated:

  • constructive participation and exceptional dedication and compassion in working with EPA to clean up a Superfund site, and
  • leadership skills, creativity and a results orientation in identifying and helping to implement actions to reduce threats posed by hazardous materials to human health and the environment.

A diverse panel of Headquarters' staff review the nominations and select the most outstanding individual or group for the award.

2000-2013 Award Winners


2013 Award Winner: Amy Garcia, Pueblo of Laguna

2013 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award.

Ron Solimon, member of Laguna Pueblo; Amy Garcia, 2013 Excellence in Community Involvement Award winner; Mathy Stanislaus, Assistant Administrator, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response; and Anne Marie Chischilly, Executive Director, Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP).

Amy Garcia of Laguna, New Mexico, was recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the winner of the 2013 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award. EPA gives this award annually to recognize an individual or a community group, who has worked with an EPA Superfund team, for outstanding achievements in the field of environmental protection and for demonstrating community involvement leadership during the site cleanup process.

The EPA selected Ms. Garcia for her commitment and dedication to the community of Laguna, New Mexico where contaminated residential properties from uranium mines are located throughout the six villages within the Pueblo of Laguna, and for her efforts to ensure the community remained informed and engaged in EPA's decision-making processes.

Ms. Garcia's dedication to community engagement at the Pueblo of Laguna villages assisted EPA in obtaining access agreements to assess and remediate over 500 residential properties. Her assistance to EPA as a liaison to the Pueblo greatly improved the success and effectiveness of EPA's cleanup efforts by keeping tribal members and homeowners informed every step of the way during the assessment and cleanup process. Her assistance also allowed EPA staff and its contractors to be well informed of tribal customs and protocols. By using individual village meetings to ensure EPA and village members understood procedures, information was disseminated in a timely manner leading to the successful completion of the cleanup. Ms. Garcia's work ensured the tribal members' interests in the future use of the land were taken into consideration during the assessment and remediation.

Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus presented the award to Ms. Garcia at the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals' Tribal Lands and Environment Forum on August 20, 2013, in New Mexico.

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2012 Award Winner : Chemical Commodities, Inc., Concerned Citizens Group

Chemical Commodities, Inc., Concerned Citizens Group in 2012 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award.

EPA Recognizes Chemical Commodities, Inc., Concerned Citizens Group as the Winner of the 2012 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award

The 2012 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award winners are Glen Andrews, Janell Andrews and Ron McVeigh. This award is presented annually to an individual or community group working with a Superfund team for outstanding achievements in the field of environmental protection.

Mr. and Mrs. Andrews and Mr. McVeigh are being recognized for their commitment and dedication to the community of Olathe, Kansas where the Chemical Commodities, Inc. (CCI) Superfund site is located. Mr. and Mrs. Andrews and Mr. McVeigh were Co-Chairs of the CCI Concerned Citizens Group where they served to ensure their community remained informed and engaged in EPA's decision-making processes.

Since 2001, Mr. and Mrs. Andrews and Mr. McVeigh kept the community informed about cleanup progress at the site, and ensured community concerns were expressed to EPA, the potentially responsible parties (PRPs), and the state. They helped change the community's attitude from one that had been reactive to one that was proactive and cooperative. In doing so, they worked with EPA to develop a plan to remove a dilapidated warehouse building on the site. The building was an eyesore to the community and a symbol of bad memories of past events at the site. As a result of this collaboration, EPA was able to demolish the building and remove contaminated soils which had also been stockpiled at the site.

Mr. and Mrs. Andrews and Mr. McVeigh established a strong working relationship with the EPA and Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and they worked to ensure all remedial options were reviewed carefully and that all potential technologies were evaluated by the PRPs. The Co-Chairs worked with the PRPs to ensure the community's interests were addressed about future land use and the community's desire for a positive outcome for the site. Currently, the PRPs are working with EPA and the community to develop a natural habitat for Monarch butterflies.

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2011 Award Winner : Lenny Siegel

Lenny Siegel 2011 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award.

EPA Recognizes Lenny Siegel as the Winner of the 2011 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award

Lenny Siegel of Mountain View, California, was recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the winner of the 2011 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award on Tuesday, July 19, 2011. EPA gives this award annually to recognize an individual or a community group, who has worked with an EPA Superfund team, for outstanding achievements in the field of environmental protection and for demonstrating community involvement leadership during the site cleanup process.

The EPA selected Mr. Siegel based on his commitment and dedication to the Mountain View, California, community where the Naval Air Station (NAS) Moffett Field Superfund site and the Middlefield-Ellis-Whisman (MEW) Superfund Study Area are located. Mr. Siegel is an active member of the NAS Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board, where he led the formation of a technical subcommittee to address specifically the community's preservation and cleanup concerns surrounding a huge structure to house dirigibles known as "Hangar One."

Mr. Siegel is one of the nation's leading experts on both military facility contamination and the vapor intrusion pathway. He has been Executive Director of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight (CPEO) for over 16 years. CPEO promotes and facilitates public participation in the oversight of environmental restoration activities at federal facilities, Superfund and Brownfield sites.

In presenting Mr. Siegel with his award, Elizabeth Southerland, director of the Assessment and Remediation division in the EPA?s Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology, commended him for his extraordinary commitment and dedication to environmental restoration efforts at the local community, regional and national levels. She also recognized his efforts to encourage active participation of all community members, his outstanding ability to simplify complicated technical and programmatic issues, and his consensus-based and interest-based approach to reach common ground and find workable solutions.

The EPA recognized Mr. Siegel at the Agency's 2011 National Community Involvement Training Conference, held in Arlington, VA, on July 19-21, 2011.

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2010 Award Winner : Woolfolk Alliance Group

Woolfolk Alliance Group accepts the 2010 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award.

Woolfolk Alliance Group accepts the 2010 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award.

The 2010 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award winner is the Woolfolk Alliance Group. This award is presented annually to an individual or a community group working with a Superfund team for outstanding achievements in the field of environmental protection. The Woolfolk Alliance Group is being recognized for its commitment and dedication to the Ft. Valley, Georgia communities affected by the Woolfolk Chemical Works, Inc. site. The dedication of the Woolfolk Alliance Group is unparalleled, and is evidenced by the majority of the founding members remaining active in the group for over ten years.

The Woolfolk Chemical Works Superfund site, located in Fort Valley, Georgia, occupies approximately 31 acres, including the former Woolfolk Chemical Works plant property and surrounding commercial areas. Since the 1920s, the Woolfolk facility had been used for the production, packaging, and storage of organic and inorganic insecticides, including arsenic, DDT, lindane, toxaphene, and other chlorinated compounds.

The Woolfolk Alliance Group has expressed the environmental concerns of the community to EPA, the State, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), and public health officials for more than ten years. The Woolfolk Alliance Group facilitates information exchange among the stakeholders while maintaining the local community’s desire to have a safer, cleaner environment and a “life after Superfund”. For the community, “life after Superfund” is measured by the City’s demonstrated ability to reuse the formerly contaminated and stigmatized land in a productive way.

Early on, the community was anxious about the initial redevelopment projects on and adjacent to the site. Construction of the new Thomas Public Library on the formerly contaminated property provided frequent opportunities to show how remediation and redevelopment can be combined to protect human health and the environment and improve the local quality of life. The new library and the renovation of the Troutman House, now a tourist information center and office space for local government agencies, have acted as catalysts to encourage homeowners to revitalize the surrounding neighborhoods. EPA commends the Woolfolk Alliance Group for its dedication to the cleanup and redevelopment of the Woolfolk Chemical Works site.

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2009 Award Winner: Palos Verdes Shelf Fish Contamination Education Collaborative Community Outreach Team

Palos Verdes Shelf Fish Contamination Education Collaborative Community  Outreach Team accepts the 2009 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award.

The Palos Verdes Shelf Fish Contamination Education Collaborative Community Outreach Team accepts the 2009 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award.

The 2009 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award winner is the Palos Verdes Shelf Fish Contamination Education Collaborative (PVS FCEC) Community Outreach Team.  This award is presented annually to an individual or a community group working with a Superfund team for outstanding achievements in the field of environmental protection.  The PVS FCEC Team is being recognized for its work to protect the most vulnerable populations in Southern California from the health risks of consuming DDT- and PCB-contaminated fish.

The Palos Verdes Shelf Superfund Site is an area of contaminated sediment on the continental shelf off the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles, CA.  The sediment is contaminated with DDT and PCBs from historical industrial releases.  Fish, particularly bottom-feeders such as white croaker, contain levels of DDT and PCB that warrant fish advisories. 

The PVS FCEC provides education on the dangers of consuming contaminated fish, as well as recommended eating and preparation guidelines to local communities, school groups, health clinics, and fish markets.  The FCEC also developed educational materials that have been translated into nine languages to ensure all affected local communities are adequately informed of health issues related to contaminated fish consumption.  In addition to extensive hands-on outreach, the FCEC also maintains a website, www.pvsfish.org, that contains educational resources on fish consumption recommendations and fish preparation tips. 

The PVS FCEC Community Outreach Team, composed of both local organizations and community members, has used a plethora of tools to ensure all affected communities are reached.  The variety and extent of the outreach activities conducted by the FCEC serve as a shining example for community groups and individuals across the country seeking to constructively participate in the cleanup of a hazardous waste site. 

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2008 Award Winner: Carol Johnston

Picture of Carol Johnson receiving her award.

Barnes Johnson, Deputy Director, Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation; Granta Nakayama, Assistant Administrator, Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Carol Johnston, Newark, New Jersey, 2008 Excellence in Community Involvement Award winner; and Susan Parker Bodine, Assistant Administrator, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response.

The 2008 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award winner is Carol Johnston of Newark, New Jersey. The Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award was created to recognize an individual or a community group for making a contribution to a Superfund cleanup through their leadership, constructive participation, exceptional dedication, and creativity.

Ms. Johnston is a resident of the Ironbound Community in Newark, NJ. For nearly a decade, Ms. Johnston has worked closely with EPA officials and community residents to ensure the community's concerns are heard. She has been a tireless advocate on behalf of the poor and the disadvantaged within her community.

Through the development of the Ironbound Master Plan, the Ironbound Recreation and Open Space Plan, and the Gateway Park Plan, Ms. Johnston brought a variety of stakeholders into the development process over the course of almost ten years. Additionally, she annually helps to organize a bus tour for decision makers to impacted areas within downtown Newark so they can see first-hand the disproportionate impact of pollution on low-income and minority families.

Ms. Johnston's efforts in 2007 for the Ironbound Community included recommending a collaborative community involvement process for EPA to consider, arranging and conducting a personal tour for the EPA Region 2 Administrator to blighted areas, and acquiring the services of a volunteer technical advisor.

Ms. Johnston was presented the award on May 20, 2008, at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 2008 National Notable Achievement Awards Ceremony in Arlington, VA.

Carol Johnston passed away on March 25, 2013, after a courageous fight with cancer.

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2007 Award Winner: Savannah River Site Citizens Advisory Board

2007 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award is presented to the Savannah River Site Citizens Advisory Board

2007 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award presentation. 2007 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award is presented to the Savannah River Site Citizens Advisory Board

The Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation is pleased to announce the Savannah River Site Citizens Advisory Board (SRS CAB) as this year?s winner of the Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award. This award recognizes an individual or a community group working with EPA to address hazardous waste issues. The Citizens Advisory Board is recognized for their dedication and commitment to the residents around the Savannah River Site in Aiken and Barnwell counties, South Carolina.

The SRS Citizens Advisory Board (CAB) is composed of a group of non-partisan individuals who strive to ensure that effective communication exists between SRS impacted communities, and to give stakeholders a key role in the decision-making processes of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Environmental Protection Agency –Region IV (EPA), and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC). The CAB provides informed and timely recommendations to the DOE, EPA, SCDHEC and SRS management concerning issues such as environmental restoration, waste management and activities related to these functions at the Savannah River Site.

From the early 1950s to 1988, the Savannah River Site served as a production site for materials used in nuclear weapons. As a result of these production processes, chemical and radioactive wastes were treated, stored or disposed of at SRS, resulting in widespread soil and groundwater contamination. Since this time, more than 323 of 515 waste sites have been closed, using several ground-breaking remediation techniques to clean up the area. Over the past thirteen years, the SRS CAB, has succeeded in contributing over 250 recommendations, which have significantly enhanced risk reduction and cleanup success at the SRS. The SRS CAB also formed several working groups to subsidize the work of CAB Committees on long-term remediation issues. These working groups provided a means for community volunteers to participate in the decision-making process as key stakeholders, while contributing valuable knowledge and insight to complex issues.

In addition to numerous scheduled committee meetings and individual efforts, the SRS CAB advanced public education on a variety of topics related to the SRS by leading a multi-sponsored educational forum. Segments on transportation, treatment and final disposition of spent fuel were included in the forum, along with an introduction to spent fuel, a panel discussion, and an exhibit program. The SRS CAB?s outreach techniques are furthered by the production of Board Beat, a semi-annual newsletter about SRS and CAB activities, which is provided to over 2000 interested stakeholders.

The EPA commends the Savannah River Site Citizens Advisory Board members for their hard work and dedication to ensuring community involvement in the remediation process at the Savannah River Site. The award was presented on June 21, 2007 at the EPA Community Involvement Training Conference in Jacksonville, FL. Donna L. Antonucci, CAB Co-Chair, accepted the award at the conference on behalf of the SRS CAB.

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2006 Award Winner: Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board Stewardship Committee

2006 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award presentation. Pictured left to right: Peter Osborne - ORSSAB; Suzanne Wells - EPA; Heather Cothron - 
       ORSSAB; Kerry Trammell - ORSSAB; Constance Jones - EPA; Karen Martin - EPA

2006 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award presentation. Pictured left to right: Peter Osborne - ORSSAB; Suzanne Wells - EPA; Heather Cothron - ORSSAB; Kerry Trammell - ORSSAB; Constance Jones - EPA; Karen Martin - EPA

The Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation is pleased to announce the Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board Stewardship Committee as this year's winner of the Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award. This award recognizes an individual or a community group working with EPA to address hazardous waste issues. The Stewardship Committee is recognized for their dedication and commitment to the residents around the Department of Energy Oak Ridge Reservation Site in Oak Ridge, TN.

The Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board (ORSSAB) was established in 1995 to reflect the concerns of the communities impacted by cleanup of the Oak Ridge Reservation and to serve as a communication link between the public and the Department of Energy (DOE). The Board is comprised of twenty members and has included two to three high school students each year since 1999. Board members are appointed by DOE and serve on a voluntary basis, without compensation.

During fiscal year 2005, the Stewardship Committee completed two important achievements that strengthened the community's participation in the cleanup of the site; the Stewardship Education Resource Kit and the development of a process to facilitate tracking contaminated parcels of DOE land. The Stewardship Education Resource Kit provides local educators with the tools to engage students in developing a general awareness of environmental cleanup issues and long-term stewardship issues at the site. The Kit contains lesson plans, videos, a fictional case study on actual cleanup operations, an appendix of supporting materials, and a video CD on the background and use of the Kit.

During World War II, the Oak Ridge Reservation played a significant role in developing nuclear weapons. As a result of the nuclear weapons development, extensive radiological and chemical contamination occurred over several decades. Because of the extensive contamination and acreage involved, much of the radioactive waste will be managed on site and will remain a potential health and environmental hazard for thousands of years. To ensure that these contaminated parcels of land are tracked, the End Use Working Group was formed in 1997. The Group recommended that the information necessary for long-term care of perpetually contaminated areas reside in a system that would transcend DOE's presence at the site. The Group also recommended that a plat map be placed into the geographical information system (GIS) of the county property assessor as well as the city's GIS system. The text contamination notices and the plat locations are now available on-line at no cost via the Anderson County Register's document retrieval system and the City of Oak Ridge's GIS system.

The award was presented to the Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board Stewardship Committee on June 29, 2006, at the EPA Community Involvement Conference and Training in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Kerry Trammell, board chairperson, Heather Cothron, ORSSAB board member and Peter Osborne, ORSSAB Administrator accepted the award at the conference on behalf of the entire ORSSAB.

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2005 Award Winner: Sue Walker

Sue Walker from Sandwich, Massachusetts is presented the Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award

Sue Walker from Sandwich, Massachusetts was presented the Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award on July 14, 2005, at the EPA Community Involvement Conference and Training that was held in Buffalo, New York. This award was created to recognize an individual or a community group for making a contribution to a Superfund cleanup through their constructive participation and exceptional dedication, and their leadership skills and creativity.

Ms. Walker is involved in the cleanup of the Massachusetts Military Reservation (MMR) site on Cape Cod. One of the things that stands out about Ms. Walker is her exceptional dedication. She has been a key and visible community advocate for cleanup at the MMR site for 23 years. She has a reputation for never missing a meeting, and has attended literally hundreds of meetings.

Though she is well versed on the technical issues at the MMR site, she has chosen to stay focused on ensuring there is a strong community involvement process in place at the site that allows for constructive public participation in the site cleanup. Ms. Walker was an advocate for establishing the Public Information Team, a citizen advisory team which separates the community involvement component from the technical site issues. Ms. Walker wrote a document called "Community Involvement: Lessons Learned" that is based on her many years of experience.

Ms. Walker brings to the table her leadership, and ability to develop other team members as community leaders. She exemplifies citizen excellence in community involvement through her efforts to reach out to local non-profits and individuals in an effort to bring in new volunteers to the MMR citizen advisory teams.

She has worked closely with EPA and the state to develop one of the largest and most politically active community involvement programs at any Superfund site. EPA congratulates Ms. Walker on her many accomplishments at the MMR site.

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2004 Award Winner: Colorado Citizens Against ToxicWaste (CCAT) of Canon City, Colorado

Nola Cooke, Director, Office of Communications and Public Involvement, USEPA Region 8, presents the 2004 Citizens Excellence in Community Involvement Award 
      to Jeri Frye, Co-chair of CCAT and Sara Kitchen, Spokesperson for CCAT.

Bold. Dedicated. Inspirational. All of these words describe the efforts of Colorado Citizens Against ToxicWaste (CCAT) of Canon City, Colorado, the winner of the 2004 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented CCAT with this award at its annual Community Involvement Conference in Denver, Colorado on June 17.

CCAT serves as an inspirational example of what dedicated community members can achieve. In a relatively small time period, CCAT developed a multi-faceted community involvement process to implement its mission "to inform and educate the public regarding toxic and radioactive waste." To achieve its mission, CCAT holds regular public meetings to inform citizens about the Lincoln Park Study Area Superfund Site, maintains an informative web site Exit Disclaimer, frequently contributes material to local media outlets, and publishes educational flyers. CCAT also actively involved citizens in the political process by sponsoring candidate forums during election cycles, informing elected officials and regulatory authorities of pertinent developments in their community, and engaging citizens in constructive discourse.

Although CCAT's co-chairs and most of its board have full-time jobs, they spend numerous hours in the records centers of the state health department and EPA researching their position papers and educating themselves to enable them to better inform the public. The EPA awarded CCAT a $50,000 Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) to hire independent technical experts to examine existing data relevant to the site and remedy. CCAT has successfully used this grant to provide additional scrutiny of technical issues related to the site.

CCAT has been successful at informing the public on issues surrounding the Lincoln Park Study Area Superfund Site. For example, when a local uranium mill attempted to change its mission from processing to direct disposal of radioactive waste, CCAT alerted the public to the state health department's re-licensing process and requested that the state hold public meetings to hear citizens' concerns. As a direct result of CCAT's efforts, these concerns were codified in two Colorado State House Bills that ensure public participation in the state health department's licensing process for facilities that want to accept hazardous waste.

In addition, CCAT has assisted the EPA Site Team in developing innovative formats for government-sponsored public meetings. Through discussions with CCAT, the EPA has developed an "All Topics Considered" Public Meeting in Canon City, which features a freestyle format where citizens can present any questions or concerns to EPA officials. The site's EPA Community Involvement Coordinator is also collaborating with CCAT to establish videoconferences to focus on technical problems at the site. By using videoconferences, EPA's experts can directly converse with the community's technical-minded citizens while saving time and money for the community or EPA.

The EPA commends CCAT members for their efforts to involve the community in environmental policy discussions that directly affect local residents. Their actions will have a lasting impact on their community and the State of Colorado.

Photo caption: Nola Cooke, Director, Office of Communications and Public Involvement, USEPA Region 8, presents the 2004 Citizens Excellence in Community Involvement Award to Jeri Frye, Co-chair of CCAT and Sara Kitchen, Spokesperson for CCAT.

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2003 Award Winner: Clintel Betts

Clintel Betts of Kansas City, KS - 2003 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award winner

Clintel Betts of Kansas City, KS, is the recipient of the 2003 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award. Mr. Betts received his award at the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Community Involvement Conference in Philadelphia, PA, on July 24, 2003. The Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award is an award given by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to recognize an individual or a community group working with the Agency to address hazardous waste issues. The EPA commends Mr. Betts for his commitment and dedication to the residents of his community around the John Garland Park site in Kansas City, KS. John Garland Park is located in the Northeast area of Kansas City, and is currently a brownfields site. The park was originally a landfill that the city converted to a park in 1982. Since the park's opening, degradation of material in the landfill resulted in settling. Eventually, because of health and safety concerns voiced by the community, the city closed the park. The Oak Grove Community Group was formed because of the community's health and safety concerns.

Mr. Betts has been the chairman of the Oak Grove Community Group for the past three years. He initially accepted this responsibility with apprehension, but was inspired by his mother to continue on with the effort. His mother believed he was the right person to be the chairman, and to assume a leadership role in the community. He also accepted the leadership role because he wanted to raise his children in a safe and clean environment. He saw this as an opportunity to learn more about environmental issues in his neighborhood, and to assist the community in getting assistance with the landfill. Mr. Betts has demonstrated true leadership by investigating the history of the site, and providing what he learned to the community through a series of neighborhood meetings.

Under the direction of Mr. Betts, the Oak Grove Community established a partnership with Associated Youth Services, a local non-profit organization, and the Technical Outreach Services for Communities program at Kansas State University. Through these partnerships a visioning workshop was held to develop a community-based, long-term plan for the John Garfield Park landfill site. The visioning workshop included the participation of many community members, including children who shared what they would like to see in the park. The workshop was very effective, and the visioning process is still in progress. The Oak Grove Community is currently reviewing designs that Kansas State University developed after the visioning workshop.

Mr. Betts has made outstanding contributions in identifying community concerns and informing his community about site cleanup issues. His efforts have enhanced the cleanup and development of the John Garland Park site. Mr. Betts serves as a shining example for community groups and individuals across the country seeking to constructively participate in the cleanup and development of an abandoned site.

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2002 Award Winner: Harold Mitchell

Harold Mitchell giving speech

Mr. Harold Mitchell is the founder of ReGenesis, an active community-based organization with 1,400 members. Under the leadership of Harold Mitchell, ReGenesis has established a broad and dynamic public-private partnership to foster identification, inventory, assessment, cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated sites.

Mr. Mitchell has acquired a noteworthy track record of being a leader and a risk taker. He identifies the needs and concerns of his community and takes collective actions to address these needs and concerns. Mr. Mitchell first became involved with environmental issues in 1994, when his personal interest in an abandoned fertilizer facility (IMC) across the street from his home grew. This led Mr. Mitchell to start talking to people in the community and listening to their growing concerns. These discussions led Mr. Mitchell to visit the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC DHEC) where he reviewed files on the formerly active manufacturing plant. During the review of the files, Mr. Mitchell learned about environmental contamination issues in his community, which led him to visit the local coroner and discuss the potential reproductive and developmental effects from the listed chemicals in the SC DHEC files. Mr. Mitchell's interest gained further momentum when he learned of the adverse health problems associated with these chemicals. He initiated an informal community health assessment and the evidence he gathered showed patterns of upper respiratory health problems, cancer and infant mortality within his own family, within his neighborhood and in the broader community.

As a risk taker in this traditionally conservative, small community, Mr. Mitchell continued to press on. His environmental related questions to the immediate neighborhood and broader community eventually got the notice of the establishment and business community. Mr. Mitchell was reportedly met with such responses as "let bygones be bygones," and remarks such as "all you are doing is stirring up trouble." Another particular response was that if "you are not willing to go all the way through with what you stumbled upon, you better leave it alone." Mr. Mitchell had every intention of going "all the way through" with this endeavor, because he was bothered by what his community faced in terms of health and environmental risks in the past, in the present and possibly in the future. This preliminary investigation by Mr. Mitchell set the stage for the phenomenal work he and ReGenesis have accomplished since1994. Mr. Mitchell and ReGenesis have orchestrated numerous community meetings, and meetings with EPA and other agencies to ensure their concerns about both Superfund sites were addressed.

Mr. Mitchell has a dedication to researching, making suggestions and following up on opportunities for community participation in environmental and health decisions. Mr. Mitchell's persistence for meaningful involvement extends to all the agencies he has worked with. Through Mr. Mitchell's community involvement efforts in Spartanburg, EPA has produced better work products (fact sheets, work plans, sampling plans, etc.), and better environmental and public health protections. Mr. Mitchell has exhibited exemplary skills of ensuring community involvement during the two Superfund site processes, as well as an Environmental Justice Demonstration Project. The Environmental Justice Demonstration Project is an outgrowth of the revitalization efforts of ReGenesis. In 1999, ReGenesis began to extend its focus beyond the two Superfund sites to include redevelopment for the targeted Forest Park and Arkwright communities. This was accomplished by establishing partnerships with city, county, state and federal government agencies to address local environmental and health issues as well as revitalization. Although these partnerships focused initially on cleanup issues, current plans represent renewed hopes for revitalization. Proposed revitalization will include housing, technology centers, job training centers and a health clinic. Through the efforts of Mr. Mitchell, Re-Genesis and the public-private partnerships they have formed, the Spartanburg area has received several grants for revitalization and redevelopment. These include a $20,000 Environmental Justice Grant, a $100,000 EPA Superfund Redevelopment Initiative Grant and a $200,000 EPA Brownfields Pilot Grant. The State of South Carolina was also awarded a $1,350,000 Brownfields Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund Grant, which will benefit four counties (including Spartanburg) and four cities.

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2001 Award Winner: Laurie Nehring

Laurie Nehring giving speech

Laurie is a mother of three young daughters and a part-time librarian. Shortly after her family moved to Ayer, Massachusetts, she got involved in the cleanup of the Fort Devens Superfund site. Fort Devens lies 35 miles west of Boston and for 60 years hosted a variety of military activities until its closure in 1996. These years left a legacy of many areas of contaminated soil and groundwater.

In 1997, members of People of Ayer Concerned About the Environment (PACE) faced a difficult situation. Not only had activities at Fort Devens left environmental damage, but its recent closure had also left a big hole in the local economy. In the early 1990s PACE had received a $50 thousand technical assistance grant from EPA to help support the group's effort to inform the community and provide input to the cleanup decision making process. The group had not spent most of the money and was in danger of losing it. Just at that time, Laurie was looking for a way to connect with her community and got involved with PACE. "Laurie was a breath of fresh air," says Jim Byrne, EPA's project manager for Fort Devens. "Laurie was able to step in and get the group together," says Jim Murphy EPA community involvement coordinator. "She put in the effort to utilize and maintain the EPA grant, which PACE used to hire a very competent consultant who was able to provide valuable technical insight."

Nehring and PACE began speaking out on cleanup decisions, bringing a whole new perspective to the table. As part of one major contribution, Nehring and PACE succeeded in changing the initial plan to consolidate six small Fort Devens' landfills into one large one near the downtown area of Ayer. By investigating the potential risks, informing the public, and mobilizing the local congressman, state senators, and other elected officials, Nehring and PACE convinced the cleanup officials to abandon that option. "Laurie helped PACE members position themselves as key players in the process, not just as critics," says Murphy. "They not only presented reasonable, well-supported concerns, but they also helped to devise realistic alternatives that would satisfy all parties involved."

When cleanup officials began looking for a new site for the landfill, Nehring and PACE sustained their involvement, meeting frequently to review the pros and cons of other siting options. The new landfill, which will feature state-of-the-art leak protection technology, is now under construction at a location that poses little risk to Ayer residents or the surrounding environment.

Looking back over her five years of work with PACE, Nehring can offer other concerned citizens valuable advice. "Remember that you are going to have ups and downs in your efforts. No matter how had it gets, don't forget that there are always other people out there facing similar issues, who believe in your cause."

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2000 Award Winner: Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment (Tri-Valley CARES)

Members of Tri-Valley CARES accept award from EPA representatives

Tri-Valley CARES is a community group based in Livermore, California. It has been actively involved with the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) for over twenty years. Founded in 1983, the group comprises more than 2,600 active members from across the community, including artists, teachers, biologists, and engineers. According to its executive director, Marylia Kelly, the group has participated in researching environmental impacts and helping to oversee the cleanup of contaminated LLNL sites.

Due to its nuclear testing activities, one LLNL's site has been on EPA's Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) since 1987 and has been identified as one of the most contaminated sites in the country. "Tri-Valley CARES members put in a tremendous number of hours to educate themselves and the community on all aspects of the Superfund cleanup," says Kathy Seitan, EPA Region 9 Superfund project manager. "Their persistence and dedication have ensured that community needs are met."

In 1989, Tri-Valley CARES became the first community group in EPA Region 9 to win a Technical Assistance Grant (TAG), which provided financial resources to continue and expand its Superfund community involvement efforts. According to David Cooper, EPA Region 9 community involvement coordinator, Tri-Valley CARES used the TAG to keep the community informed about the technical and global issues of the cleanup. Members also acted as effective spokespeople by expressing community concerns and making specific technical comments to LLNL and EPA during all stages of the cleanup effort.

"Community involvement is very important to Superfund cleanups," Cooper says. "Not oly does EPA have a regulatory responsibility to get the public involved, but the public has a right to know how their money is being spent, what the potential risks are, and how they can contribute to the decision-making process."

Tri-Valley CARES helped the public participate in decision-making by developing and circulating a set of 12 criteria for community acceptance of the site cleanup plan. The plan was initially developed by LLNL and serves as the legal basis for all future aspects of the cleanup. To achieve EPA approval, the plan must meet nine Agency criteria, including community acceptance. Tri-Valley CARES outlined acceptance criteria with community preference for the cleanup schedule, cleanup levels and methods, future land use, budget planning, and levels of public involvement.

"Part of our work as I see it is to take technical data and translate it into plain language to empower the community to become involved," Kelly says. "EPA and Livermore Labs each look at the cleanup through different lenses - they are interested in budget issues and following regulations. Our job is to press EPA to do the most they can, fulfilling our role in the mosaic of interested parties."

As part of its continuing community efforts, Tri-Valley CARES hosts monthly meetings open to the public to discuss the latest LLNL activities. The group also disseminates information via a Tri-Valley CARES monthly newsletter Exit EPA Disclaimer and provides Spanish translations of LLNL's environmental publications.

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