“One-size does not fit all:” Geographic Difference in Environmental Remediation Outreach

Authors: Brittany Kiessling*,
Topics: Environment, Qualitative Research, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters
Keywords: Environmental remediation, Superfund, Brownfields, Government agency, environmental policy
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Taylor, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


One of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) core activities is cleanup of contaminated sites. EPA staff conduct outreach and engagement with homeowners, community groups, and state and local government leaders during remediation of Superfund and brownfield sites, or decontamination after oil spills and other environmental emergencies. Many researchers have investigated the socio-political processes and historical legacies that are embedded in the creation of toxic sites and uneven distribution of health risks. However, less is known about the social contexts that affect the cleanup process itself, or the perspectives of agency cleanup workers. How, then, do dynamic social trends at the community, state, and federal institutional levels intersect to affect cleanup processes and outcomes? What factors shape EPA outreach and public engagement strategies? What geographic differences are there in the types of challenges cleanup workers face in the field? Are there common approaches and skills for successful public engagement and positive community outcomes that can be applied to sites throughout the country?

This research project addresses these questions through the use of 25 semi-structured interviews with EPA staff who work in these social contexts on environmental remediation. The results demonstrate that there are important geographic differences in outreach strategies and challenges faced. Ultimately, this study highlights that there is no “one-size fits all” approach to working with communities, however building trust and cultural competency are essential for cleanup success.

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