Community Concerns and Communications Work Group
Community Concerns and Communications Work Group
February 22, 2005 - Meeting Minutes
ORRHES Members attending: Jeff Hill (Substitute Chair), Kowetha Davidson, Karen Galloway (phone), and James Lewis
ATSDR Staff attending: Loretta Bush (phone), Jack Hanley (phone), Marilyn Palmer (phone), and Bill Taylor
DOE Staff attending: Tim Joseph
Public Members attending: Dick Gammage and Lynne Roberson (phone)
Oak Ridger Staff attending: Ellen Rogers
TA Consulting, Inc. (contractor): Amy Adkins
ERG Contractor: Liz Bertelsen (phone)
Jeff Hill volunteered to chair the meeting because George Gartseff (CCCWG Chair) was unable to attend. The purpose of the meeting was for Loretta Bush with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to discuss the agency's plans for public outreach activities regarding the public comment release of the Toxic Substances and Control Act (TSCA) Incinerator Public Health Assessment (PHA).
Public Outreach Plan for TSCA Incinerator PHA—Public Comment Release
Presenter: Loretta Bush, ATSDR
Loretta Bush presented a table that detailed the public outreach plan. Ms. Bush explained that she had given a presentation to the CCCWG about three or four months ago. At that time, the work group made suggestions for the intended audience, which have been incorporated in the plan. She explained that the intended audience would include:
Loretta Bush read the objectives of the plan (listed below), which respond to the question, "What do we want them to know/do?"
Loretta Bush explained the strategies of the plan. Two weeks before the March 22, 2005, ORRHES meeting, on March 8, 2005, ATSDR would send a press release to media outlets (e.g., television, radio, and newspaper) via News Wire. At this time, the press release would be sent to all media outlets in the State of Tennessee indicating that the TSCA Incinerator PHA is available for public comment. In addition, ATSDR will target specific local media outlets: Oak Ridger, Oak Ridge Observer, Senior Living Newspaper, Knoxville News-Sentinel, Roane County News, and Crossville Chronicle. The local outlets will receive a press kit including the press release and TSCA Incinerator PHA. ATSDR's Office of Communication will contact each outlet prior to sending the press kits so they know to expect the materials. On March 8, 2005, the ORRHES will receive the Public Comment PHA.
Loretta Bush stated that on March 15, 2005, ATSDR's Office of Communication would arrange media interviews with any interested outlets. At this time, ATSDR will disseminate information to the intended audience via ATSDR's Web site, DOE's monthly newsletter, the Local Oversight Committee (LOC), ORRHES's e-mail distribution list, and via newspaper ads. Information will discuss the next ORRHES meeting (on March 22, 2005), PHA public comment period, and TSCA Incinerator PHA presentation. At the next ORRHES meeting, the public comment version of the PHA will be presented to the community and to ORRHES. Attendees will receive handouts of overheads used in the presentation. Also at this time, the PHA will be distributed to about 100 individuals/organizations. The public comment period will run until May 6, 2005.
Based on discussions during the meeting, Loretta Bush would make the necessary changes (e.g., removing the part of the plan that states the summary document would be available before the public comment period) and send the updated version to Bill Taylor for distribution to the CCCWG.
Jack Hanley and Loretta Bush asked if anyone had comments on the intended audience or the objectives. Ms. Bush said that Bill Taylor had a mailing list that people could review.
James Lewis noted that the environmental activist groups (e.g., Save Our Cumberland Mountains [SOCM]) have raised most of the issues and he did not want to see them omitted from the list. He thought that these groups represented more of a breakdown of various segments of the different communities and he believed that they should be addressing these groups' issues and problems. If ATSDR did not also target these groups, then the agency could be "missing the boat." Loretta Bush believed these were captured under "grassroots organizations" and "scientific community." Mr. Lewis wanted these groups contacted individually.
Marilyn Palmer said that SOCM and other environmental groups were on the general mailing list. Jack Hanley had a copy of the list. He said that the list included Citizens for Better Health, SOCM, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Watch, American Environmental Justice, and other groups. James Lewis wanted the list laid out so that they could review it. He believed that the list needed to be shared with ORRHES to ensure that interested groups were included.
Jeff Hill asked if the list should be added to the meeting minutes. Bill Taylor said that the actual mailing list was about 20 pages long. He could, however, make the list available to ORRHES members. Kowetha Davidson suggested that people who were concerned about the list should provide the names of organizations to ATSDR, and the agency could make sure that the groups were included. James Lewis wanted to "see what ATSDR has and go from there."
Bill Taylor did not want to e-mail the mailing list because it contained personal information, including names, addresses, and phone numbers. Marilyn Palmer agreed, but thought that people could review the list with Bill Taylor at ATSDR's Oak Ridge Field Office. Dr. Taylor said that he could create a new list with only organization names. Loretta Bush noted that environmental activist groups would be added under intended audience.
Jeff Hill asked how ATSDR planned to obtain a list of former workers. Loretta Bush replied that there were several worker retiree groups. Jack Hanley added that they had some unions, which they assumed former workers were in contact with, and a few individuals who were former workers. Ms. Bush said that they also had groups such as the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), which have employee newsletters that are sent to former workers. Mr. Hill said that this would not be "inclusive by any means" of the number of retiree agencies in the Oak Ridge area.
Jack Hanley asked Loretta Bush to describe how the mailing list was created. Ms. Bush explained that ATSDR created the mailing list in 1999. The agency met with about 25 different organizations in Oak Ridge when beginning the initial ORRHES. ATSDR developed a list and DOE also had an extensive mailing list. The initial list was more than 20 pages, and ATSDR has corresponded with members of the list throughout the years to see if people and organizations were still interested in being contacted. ATSDR also had three mailings to see if people wanted to be included. Therefore, the current mailing list was developed as a result of letters sent out to people and organizations on the distribution list, the DOE list, and ATSDR's initial list.
Kowetha Davidson pointed out that they would be capturing some of the same people because of overlap. For example, someone could be a church member, a retiree, and a resident.
Referring to the question, "What do we want them to know/do?" under the objectives, James Lewis asked for a definition of "them." Also, he believed that they needed an objective to address the issues and concerns of the community regarding the TSCA Incinerator. Jack Hanley said that the concerns were captured and addressed in the PHA. He clarified that the "objectives" being discussed referred to the outreach program. Mr. Hanley said that ATSDR wants the public to understand that the PHA is available and that there is a public comment period.
James Lewis said that the objective is to try and ensure that these issues and concerns are addressed. He believed that this was the reason they were here; he thought that this should be a bulleted item in the plan. Jack Hanley responded that there is a three-fold objective: a) evaluate releases and evaluate if a public health hazard exists, b) address any outstanding concerns, and c) develop recommendations that could eliminate potential hazards if any are identified. Mr. Hanley added that the purpose of the outreach plan is to a) get people to read the document, b) let people know the document is available, c) indicate where people can obtain additional information, and d) tell people how to provide any additional concerns to ATSDR. He added that people would still have an opportunity to provide their comments to ATSDR during the public comment period. Mr. Lewis restated that people take the time to attend these meetings and that their issues and concerns should be captured in the PHA.
Kowetha Davidson thought that the purpose was to release the public comment version of the PHA. She suggested including clear instructions for people to submit their comments to ATSDR in all PHAs and press materials. Bill Taylor noted that this information is always included in PHAs; Loretta Bush said that this information is always incorporated into press materials.
James Lewis recalled negative experiences with past press releases because they were not very informative and did not convey a clear message. He noted that these were the types of comments he received from people in the community. He believed that ATSDR should evaluate its past efforts, which he stated were "weak." He wanted ATSDR to look at the weaknesses of past efforts and determine improvements that could be made. He added that "this is not a dry run." He suggested that ATSDR a) contact groups to see if they have received the information and to obtain feedback, and b) use this feedback to determine the effectiveness of the agency's efforts in order to improve products that have not been well received. Loretta Bush responded that a community concerns comment sheet specifically related to the PHA could be included with the document. She said that this would provide a "feedback mechanism" for individuals to fill out and send to ATSDR; it would include pre-paid postage.
James Lewis believed that personal contact was important, especially when environmental activist groups were involved, and he wanted ATSDR to make an effort to obtain feedback. He added that "one cookie cutter doesn't fit everything." Kowetha Davidson said that it was part of the work group's responsibility to look at the product and provide feedback, and that the group needed to inform ATSDR whether additional information was necessary.
Jeff Hill asked how the video project for the TSCA Incinerator PHA flowed into the plan. Jack Hanley replied that ATSDR did not have a video for this PHA. He hoped to receive final approval on the Y-12 PHA video over the next few weeks, which he was still presenting to senior management. After this process was completed, he could approach ATSDR management about videos for other PHAs. Mr. Hill asked if these would be listed as products if additional videos were created. Mr. Hanley said that this was correct. If the work group wanted ATSDR to make more videos, Marilyn Palmer suggested that the CCCWG recommend this to ORRHES.
James Lewis asked if ATSDR would use this plan as a template for other PHAs. Loretta Bush said that they intended to do so. Mr. Lewis thought that they needed to ensure that the comments were not isolated only to the incinerator.
James Lewis proposed an action item for Loretta Bush to share the results of her monitoring efforts with the work group. He wanted Ms. Bush to document her efforts and the comments that she received during the monitoring process. Kowetha Davidson believed that this would need to go through ORRHES. Marilyn Horton said that Dr. Davidson was correct.
Discussion of the TSCA Incinerator PHA Summary Document
Facilitators: Loretta Bush and Jack Hanley, ATSDR
Loretta Bush said they wanted to receive the work group's feedback on the summary document entitled, "Do Releases from the TSCA Incinerator Affect the Health of People Living Nearby?"
The picture bothered James Lewis. It gave him the "impression of something spewing out of the top." He believed that this was a state-of-the-art facility, but said that this was not reflected in the picture. He thought that this picture would scare people when the subject matter is a "non-issue." He wanted a picture that reflected the existing facility. Tim Joseph offered to obtain various pictures. Bill Taylor said that the group's body language indicated agreement that the picture looked "ominous" and that it should be improved. Mr. Lewis wanted the picture to "show what's there." Kowetha Davidson asked for clarification. Dr. Joseph asked if Mr. Lewis wanted to show that state-of-the-art monitoring takes place at the facility; he said that Dr. Joseph was correct.
Jeff Hill did not like the word "treats" being used in the first sentence to say that the incinerator "treats hazardous and radioactive waste." He wanted a less "soft" word, such as "destroys" or "eliminates." Bill Taylor explained that ATSDR often uses the word "treat" because some product is eliminated, but some is not. Mr. Hill said that they only have "one chance to make a first impression." Kowetha Davidson said that "destroy" would be incorrect. Jack Hanley suggested "burns," which Mr. Hill thought was an improvement.
Dick Gammage believed that the document had an "ominous air," which continued throughout the summary. It did not give him a feeling "that things are perfectly alright." He had previously thought that the TSCA Incinerator "was perfectly safe" and now he was "beginning to wonder." He said that this brought up questions, such as "Why are you doing this exercise?" and "Have things gone wrong?" It made him wonder if something was being covered up. Bill Taylor said that they created a summary document to simplify and summarize the PHA for the lay public, and that they wanted to receive the CCCWG's feedback during this meeting.
James Lewis was unsure why ATSDR was conducting this assessment because he was unable to identify the community concerns. Mr. Lewis wanted to know the community concerns and asked if ATSDR was addressing them. He also thought that ATSDR needed to give credit to the controls that are in place by EPA, DOE, and other agencies.
Dick Gammage asked if this was an exercise in public relations so that ATSDR could reassure the public that the TSCA Incinerator was functioning properly and that "no adverse public health effects" have occurred as a result of the incinerator's operations. Bill Taylor noted that it was not the agency's intent to make this into a public relations effort.
Bill Taylor said that Dick Gammage raised two questions: 1) What are ATSDR's findings? and 2) What is the purpose of the effort? Jack Hanley explained how this subject matter became the focus of a PHA. He said that when the ORRHES began, ATSDR received input that indicated people still had concerns about the incinerator. Consequently, ATSDR included the incinerator on its list of PHAs to be conducted. Mr. Hanley referred the group to the second paragraph on the first page of the summary under "Why did ATSDR become involved with the TSCA Incinerator?" He read that ATSDR was involved "to help answer questions that local residents have about environmental contamination" and "to respond to specific community concerns about the incinerator."
Tim Joseph asked if ORRHES voted on ATSDR conducting this PHA. Kowetha Davidson believed that ORRHES voted on all of the PHAs. Dr. Joseph suggested making it clearer that ORRHES requested this PHA, and that it was not a request of the agency.
James Lewis said that there were over 200 comments and challenges brought to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). Kowetha Davidson asked what issues Mr. Lewis was referencing. She said that the approval of PHAs had repeatedly gone through ORRHES. She noted that people cannot "say now that they don't remember." Mr. Lewis said that although this might be true, they needed to see the issues and concerns so they could be addressed. Jack Hanley stated that the concerns were included in the PHA. Mr. Lewis believed that they could give ATSDR appropriate feedback if they were able to look at the PHA.
Kowetha Davidson believed it was a matter of the "chicken or the egg." She said that they would either receive the summary before the PHA was released or at the time of its release.
Jack Hanley stated that they were only asking for the group's general comments—they were not asking the group to "bless" the document. He said that they were having the CCCWG preview the document so that ATSDR could "effectively communicate to the public." He noted that the work group members could comment again during the public comment release. Jeff Hill said that this was the work group's opportunity to initially review the draft summary and to provide feedback. The CCCWG would then receive the summary document with the PHA and could make comments during the public comment period. Mr. Hanley said that this was correct; they would receive the revised summary and PHA before the ORRHES meeting.
James Lewis read a portion from "What is being done to ensure that the TSCA Incinerator remains safe in the future?" and noted where it says that "ATSDR has made several recommendations..."
Dick Gammage said that the document implied that the total operation has been completely shut down on a few occasions. He asked if this was correct; Bill Taylor believed that this was true. Mr. Gammage then read the following sentence, "In the isolated instances when higher emission rates were observed, air samples have shown that air quality at off-site locations was not affected." He then read the following, "Further, the entire incinerator is designed to shut down automatically if operating conditions start to go outside of levels set forth in the environmental permits." He was left with the impression that the incinerator was designed to shut down. He said that this type of language raises "unfortunate questions." He noted that this same type of problem occurs in various places within the document. Mr. Gammage wanted to see firm data and more supportive evidence. He thought that "several pathways" in the document had "unfortunate linkages" and "lead to questions" in his mind.
Bill Taylor explained that they have had two presentations on the PHA itself where a lot of technical information was presented. Dr. Taylor noted, however, that Dick Gammage's comments on the summary document were "well taken."
Jack Hanley asked for the specific areas that Dick Gammage had referenced. Bill Taylor summarized that Mr. Gammage believed that information contained in the second and third text boxes implied that certain things have occurred, but they were not explained (e.g., plant shut down). Mr. Gammage wanted to know the significance of any exceedences. Dr. Taylor said that these were not quantified in the summary, but that they were in the PHA. Jeff Hill, who considered himself a layperson, wanted to also "see more hard numbers" in the summary.
Dick Gammage commented on the following sentence from the second text box: "Air pollution controls prevent many harmful chemicals from going out the smoke stack." He said that, "in other words, harmful chemicals go out the smoke stack." He wanted this explained.
Tim Joseph wondered if this summary document only raised more questions that might not need to be brought up. He added that DOE, TDEC, EPA, and the Independent Governor's Panel have already studied the incinerator. He wondered if they needed a summary. Jack Hanley asked if Dr. Joseph suggested not having a summary. Dr. Joseph said that this was correct. Loretta Bush noted that the purpose of this summary is to provide information for the lay public. Jeff Hill thought that they should have a summary. Dr. Joseph was not stating that ATSDR should eliminate a summary altogether; he was saying not to use this particular summary.
James Lewis explained that a significant amount of work had been done prior to this PHA effort. He believed that ATSDR "should be embracing" these efforts and controls that are in place because they are the reason the incinerator is not an issue. He appreciated the efforts by John Wilhelmi (ERG), but wanted the reasons why this was not a problem to be expressed.
Kowetha Davidson said that ORRHES had requested a short summary of the PHA and its findings, which she suggested ATSDR use as the focus for the layperson summary. James Lewis stated that "one size does not fit all." He believed that ATSDR needed to talk about the positive efforts that have been done and to state why this was not a problem. He added that ATSDR needed to mention that the current controls meet the needs and requirements.
Kowetha Davidson said that ORRHES had wanted a document for the layperson. Tim Joseph stated that they also wanted monitoring and levels, but that was not included in the summary. James Lewis said that ORRHES wanted something from the CCCWG that would help them understand the PHAs before voting on the final documents. He said that there were two different summaries: a summary for ORRHES and a summary for the public. Dr. Davidson said that there was supposed to be two summaries: a four-page summary for the public and a ten-page document for ORRHES. Jeff Hill said that this document received "about a C- or a D." Dr. Joseph thought that ATSDR should build a four-page summary by abstracting information from the ten-page summary, which would include levels, monitoring data, and other information.
Jack Hanley explained that the PHA had an executive summary. A ten-page summary, however, would not be created for this PHA because there was not much information to include as this PHA was straightforward and a tremendous amount of data were available. Although, more extensive summaries would be prepared for the other PHAs. James Lewis asked why there was "not much there." Mr. Hanley said that extensive data were available for the facility. Tim Joseph said that this was the point because there was a lot of information and details that were not mentioned in the summary. Dr. Joseph added that it was "almost embarrassing to have this kind of summary when there is a great deal not there that needs to be" included.
Tim Joseph suggested that they look at the executive summary. Jack Hanley said that they were likely to send out the PHA as it was and that they could read the summary document during the public comment period. He did not believe that it would be possible to release the summary before the PHA public comment version with all of the changes the group suggested. He added that if the CCCWG thought that this summary was inappropriate and could not provide specific comments to modify it, then he suggested that ATSDR release the PHA without a summary.
Jeff Hill suggested that Jack Hanley provide the CCCWG with the executive summary and meet the following week. James Lewis added that the summary should not be "thrown out" because this current version did not meet the group's expectations. He noted that ATSDR "committed to doing something like this." Mr. Hanley reiterated that he needed specific comments in order to modify the summary. Mr. Hill replied that the group would be able to do this if they could view the executive summary. Mr. Lewis believed it was only logical to see the technical information from the PHA in order to provide comments for the summary.
Jeff Hill said that "no one" in the room was "happy" with this summary. He noted that it needed more substance. Jack Hanley understood that the group could not provide specific suggestions without seeing the executive summary. Mr. Hill said that this was correct. James Lewis believed that the current summary "sends the wrong message about the effort." Dick Gammage added that it "raises unfortunate questions" and "fails to reassure" him about the incinerator. He also thought it needed "to be written properly."
If the group had additional comments on other pieces of the summary, Loretta Bush asked that they be sent to her. Jeff Hill said that there were "no comments left." James Lewis suggested that Ms. Bush "read the minutes." Following this comment, Kowetha Davidson said, "I think we need to check our attitudes."
Jack Hanley said that the group might be able to meet again and they could work on the summary after having the PHA. He thought that the group could provide comments on the summary during the public comment period since they would also have the PHA to reference. He reminded the group that when the Y-12 summary was prepared, ORRHES had the document already; however, the process had changed since this time.
James Lewis said that they had a "flawed process." He believed that they needed to take their process into consideration so that they could receive "proper input." Jeff Hill asked if the next PHA could be done differently. Jack Hanley responded that they would have to consider modifying the process and noted that he was unsure that the executive summary in the PHA would provide enough information for the group to feel comfortable providing comments.
Kowetha Davidson pointed out that they have about eight PHAs and only had until June 2006. She said that they needed to do what was necessary and to use the process in place to get this done. James Lewis said that the previous process, which was effective, had been changed.
Jack Hanley said that once the PHA was released to the public, they could work on developing a summary for the lay public. With the current process, ORRHES and the public receive the document during the public comment period. He added that if this process was not working, then they needed to consider modifying it. He asked the group if it would be appropriate to review the summary during the public comment period; Jeff Hill indicated that this would be fine.
Dick Gammage recited a portion from the summary's last page under "What is being done to ensure that the TSCA Incinerator remains safe in the future?" He read the following sentence: "Since operations began in 1991 many safeguards have been put in place to ensure that the TSCA Incinerator continues to operate safely in the future." He stated that this sentence implied that safeguards were not in place when the incinerator began operations. He believed this was "badly written."
ATSDR's Press Release for the TSCA Incinerator PHA
Presenter: Loretta Bush, ATSDR
Loretta Bush explained that ATSDR planned to issue the press release on March 8, 2005, which was two weeks prior to the public comment period (beginning on March 22, 2005). The public comment period would go through May 6, 2005. She noted that this was a "standard release" and would be issued via News Wire. It would not be seen in this format; only people receiving press kits would see the release in this same format. She explained that the first paragraph captured the PHA topic, document release date, and public comment period dates. She said that the release also contained ATSDR's general findings, purpose of the PHA, and repositories for obtaining information. In addition, it provided the address for ATSDR's Records Management Activity so people can request copies of the document and provide ATSDR with their comments. The release says that comments received by the public would be logged and included as part of ATSDR's administrative record. It also provided names and phone numbers of people to contact for additional information and told media outlets who to contact for interviews.
Bill Taylor asked if copies of the PHA would be distributed with the press release. Loretta Bush replied that the release would be distributed two weeks prior to the document. In the press kits, people would receive the press release and PHA. Kowetha Davidson asked when ORRHES would receive the document. Ms. Bush said that ORRHES and the media would receive the PHA at the same time.
Kowetha Davison said that the purpose should be in the second paragraph and the findings should be presented after the purpose. Bill Taylor agreed.
Jeff Hill asked if the phrase "other than workers" was necessary in the third paragraph. He thought it indicated that the public has not been harmed, but workers have been affected. Kowetha Davidson suggested removing this phrase.
Jeff Hill made references to the following sentence in the second paragraph: "On the basis of ATSDR's evaluation of site information and sampling data, ATSDR's general findings are that the TSCA Incinerator releases trace levels of contaminants into the environment, but in amounts far below levels associated with health effects." Mr. Hill said that "trace levels" tells him little and that the use of "far" seemed "soft." Kowetha Davison suggested saying that "...the TSCA Incinerator releases levels of contaminants far below those associated with health effects."
Jeff Hill referred to the second address on the second page. He thought that it should say "ATSDR Oak Ridge Field Office."
Jack Hanley wanted to ensure that the group was in agreement about releasing the PHA and creating a summary during the public comment period. He added that the next document released was likely to be the White Oak Creek PHA. After this document was approved internally, Mr. Hanley said that he could possibly provide the group with the executive summary to develop a summary for the general public.
Kowetha Davidson suggested writing the executive summary, but in layman terms. Bill Taylor said that the executive summary was already "watered down" as it did not contain much technical information, which is the supporting evidence that seems to be missing from the TSCA summary. Dr. Davidson reminded the group that ORRHES said that it did not want technical information in the summary document.
Jack Hanley had previously received comments indicating that pictures helped communicate messages. This was tried in this summary and he thought they could improve the pictures. He read the "note" presented at the bottom of the summary document, "Note: The information presented here is intended to give a general overview of ATSDR's findings on the TSCA Incinerator. ATSDR's public health assessment (PHA) describes each of the issues shown here in far greater detail. Moreover, the PHA evaluates numerous community concerns and technical issues not listed here. Community members interested in further detailed information on ATSDR's review of the TSCA Incinerator are encouraged to read the PHA." He said that they could improve this statement also. He reminded the group that they had a few versions of the summary sheet for the Y-12 PHA before getting to the final product; he believed this review would only improve the TSCA summary.
Kowetha Davidson said that this was going to be the process for this particular PHA. She said that they had made the decision, and they had to move forward.
Karen Galloway did not have the documents prior to the meeting. Jack Hanley said that in the future, they could try to send her the documents in advance. Jeff Hill said that he would provide them to her the following day.
The meeting was adjourned at 7:15 pm.