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Oak Ridge Reservation

Oak Ridge Reservation: Communications & Outreach Work Group

Communications and Outreach Work Group

May 10, 2004 - Meeting Minutes


Attendance

Members attending:
James Lewis (Chair), Peggy Adkins (phone), Don Box, Kowetha Davidson, Karen Galloway,
David Johnson, Susan Kaplan, and Barbara Sonnenburg (phone)

ATSDR Staff attending:
Loretta Bush, Marilyn Horton, and Bill Taylor

ERG Contractor:
Liz Bertelsen (phone)

Purpose

James Lewis called the meeting to order.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss ATSDR's communication and outreach efforts regarding the EPA/ATSDR community meeting on June 7, 2004, and ATSDR's cancer incidence presentation to the ORRHES on June 8, 2004.

ATSDR's Update on Communication and Outreach Efforts

Presenter: Loretta Bush, ATSDR

Loretta Bush explained that she and James Lewis had previously spoken about the ORRHES comments that referred to communication issues within ATSDR. Since ATSDR has been conducting "business as usual" in regards to communication and outreach efforts, she needed the COWG to tell her what ATSDR should do differently. She said that Jerry Pereira (project manager) was meeting with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials on May 18, 2004, to review issues and prepare an agenda for the June 7, 2004, community meeting. Ms. Bush wanted input from the COWG to ensure that ATSDR and EPA address community concerns and disseminate needed information to the public.

According to Loretta Bush, to date ATSDR has used different mechanisms to disseminate information to the public. These include placing advertisements and/or press releases into the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) newsletter, Roane County News, The Oak Ridger, Knoxville Sentinel, as well as other resources. ATSDR is also sending out information (as needed) to other identified individuals on the ORRHES mailing list.

Loretta Bush has heard from various people that ATSDR needs to find other communication methods rather than using its standard "business as usual" practices to handle EPA-related comments. Ms. Bush wants to make sure that ATSDR addresses ORRHES members' concerns related to these issues. She wanted assistance from the COWG to identify the community's needs, which would enable ATSDR to be more successful in their communication efforts.

Loretta Bush explained that she had begun communications with the eight-county area. Based on conversations with ORRHES members, the initial focus will be on the city of Kingston and the Roane County area. She noted that ATSDR's outreach efforts would address these areas. Ms. Bush stated that, based on ORRHES members' recommendations, Kingston was pinpointed as the next community to receive outreach efforts. She added that Kingston was chosen because the White Oak Creek document would be released in the near future, and the study area in this public health assessment includes Kingston and Roane County. According to Ms. Bush, two outreach efforts have been conducted. On March 16, 2004, Ms. Bush had a conference call with an individual living in Kingston to identify individuals and organizations for outreach activities. Bill Taylor conducted an outreach effort on April 24, 2004. In addition, Tony Malinauskas and Pete Malmquist will conduct outreach with the Kingston Chamber of Commerce and attend a Kingston City Council meeting.

At the last ORRHES meeting, the members decided that ATSDR would hold a meeting with EPA on June 7, 2004. Loretta Bush said that she had identified interested individuals, including elected officials, media, environmental justice groups, and other parties. She asked the COWG to suggest other efforts that would be helpful. She wanted to assemble these ideas and then submit them to her management. She hoped that her management would then bring the COWG's ideas to EPA. She asked the COWG, "How do they get people to the meeting." Ms. Bush added that she had contacted Art Lewis at the health department and discussed conducting outreach efforts at various churches. She has heard that people do not know about the ORRHES or ATSDR, and that the agency is not communicating ATSDR's purpose or skills to the community.

Loretta Bush explained that ATSDR is holding a meeting with EPA officials on May 19, 2004, to discuss the agenda for the June 7, 2004, public meeting. She wants to collect ideas from the COWG and bring the information to her manager. She wants to make sure that their ideas are incorporated, but noted that not every idea will necessarily be incorporated into the June 7, 2004, meeting agenda.

At the end of the meeting, Loretta Bush summarized the discussion points:

  • Instead of an announcement, consider a human interest story


  • Information needs to discuss the purpose of the meeting


  • Identify churches (identified one during meeting—Central Baptist Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee)


  • Share advertisements with COWG, ORRHES, and other public members prior to publication


  • Don Box identified a church member and a physician willing to disseminate information


  • Identify environmental and science groups


  • Public officials focus on current issues, whereas environmental groups focus on past issues


  • Identify clearly that EPA is coming to talk about the Y-12 document


  • Identify outstanding issues and distribute information to individuals who want to attend meetings


  • COWG develop questions for EPA


  • Public wants to hear from US EPA, not necessarily EPA Region IV—discuss the differences to the public and why the two agencies disagree


  • Ask Jerry Pereira for minutes from the May 18, 2004, meeting with EPA

Loretta Bush noted that COWG members needed to e-mail her their comments or questions about the cancer incidence by May 14, 2004. Her e-mail address is lsbush@cdc.gov.

Discussion

Peggy Adkins said that she liked the concept of trying things in a different way. She thought they could have a featured human-interest story that showed both sides of the "Oak Ridge argument" and invite participants regardless of their views. She added that the article could be from a community member who thinks he or she is affected by Oak Ridge. Loretta Bush responded that they were speaking in reference to the EPA and ATSDR issues, but that her idea would be appropriate for the discussion on the cancer incidence presentation on June 8, 2004. Ms. Adkins noted that she was trying to involve more community members into the meetings. She thought that they could put out releases in church bulletins and added that she could help identify older churches in Roane County for outreach efforts.

Susan Kaplan said that they should not only focus on human-interest stories. Instead, they needed an article with "EPA and ATSDR Public Health Meeting" in the headline. She said that because people are "tuned to ignore ads," they needed a definitive headline and the article needed to discuss the reason for holding the meeting. Loretta Bush replied that ATSDR had talked about holding public availability sessions with the press and provide them with the critical items. Ms. Bush wants to reach as many people as possible to attend the meeting. In her opinion, it was imperative that they print an article to detail the initial story and then print a follow-up advertisement and/or story to remind people about the meeting. All articles and advertisements will be shared with the ORRHES and COWG prior to their release.

Don Box said that he knew a minister at Central Baptist Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who was anxious to be a "collective person for churches" in the area. The minister wanted to be involved and disperse information to the public. Someone asked for the name of the minister; Mr. Box replied that the minister's name was Dr. Bobby Mullins. Mr. Box said that his church could hold 1,500 people for a meeting and was probably readily available. He had also spoken with a medical doctor at his church who lives in Kingston, Tennessee; this physician was willing to disseminate information to different doctors in area emergency rooms.

In response to Loretta Bush's question asking for additional groups or individuals to contact, Peggy Adkins suggested speaking with environmental and science groups in the community. She could not remember the names of these organizations. James Lewis noted a few—Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM) and the Roane and Anderson County Technical Society. He said that the technical society had conducted beneficial activities, such as bringing in the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to speak about contaminants. He added that this suggestion had been made to Jack Hanley in the past. Susan Kaplan noted that they discussed all of this when they first established their media plan.

James Lewis said that they have been working together for three years and asked where this approach had been during this time period. He noted that they have missed opportunities because they did not have this approach in place. He wanted to know what ATSDR was going to tell the "lay public" when they disseminate information that contains a significant level of detail, such as the public health assessments. He thought that material containing this level of detail would not hold the interest of many people. He said that they needed to look at the "collective significance" of the community; not focus on the needs of a few groups.

James Lewis said that elected officials usually focus on current issues, whereas activities and other groups focus on the past.

Barbara Sonnenburg explained that, as a general rule, more people would come to the meeting if they thought there was a disagreement between two sides. She thought they should indicate this in the promotional materials. James Lewis said that the initial article is the last information that was distributed to the public. Ms. Sonnenburg said that people needed to be reminded because they would have forgotten about the article. Mr. Lewis said that if people were asked, they would only remember the article—"EPA Flays ATSDR's Health Report." Ms. Sonnenburg said that the advertisement needed to note that EPA does not agree with ATSDR.

Loretta Bush responded to James Lewis and Barbara Sonnenburg. She explained that they have to be careful about sending a message that there will be a "match" between two health-related agencies. Ms. Bush said that they did not want to send this type of message; instead, the community needed clarification on why the two agencies disagree. She added that EPA agreed with the "bottom line" of the Y-12 report, but disagreed with the methods used to derive the past conclusions. Susan Kaplan responded that EPA did not agree with the past conclusions. She wanted to hear from EPA that the agency agrees; she believed it was ATSDR's interpretation of EPA's letter that the agency agrees, but she wanted to hear directly from EPA if this was true. Ms. Kaplan said they needed a headline to capture that they were holding a public meeting to talk about the Y-12 report.

James Lewis said he agreed with Barbara Sonnenburg. He thought that when two agencies disagreed, then both agencies needed to meet and speak to the public about the issues. He was "tired of hearing from one side of the house." Mr. Lewis explained that ORRHES had requested that ATSDR implement this type of recommendation and ATSDR (to the best of his knowledge) did not implement their recommendation. According to the ORRHES records, Herman Cember (ORRHES member) recommended that these differences between the agencies be explained to the public.

Susan Kaplan mentioned that they needed to develop a list of questions for EPA so the agency would be prepared to answer the questions. Loretta Bush thought this was a good idea and that it would be helpful because the agencies could develop responses in advance. Ms. Kaplan has already written questions. Ms. Bush asked if she could have Ms. Kaplan's questions and then she would forward them to Jerry Pereira and ATSDR management. Ms. Kaplan wanted to incorporate questions from the group with her questions.

Bill Taylor noted something to consider. He said that this will be a public meeting and that there will be a question period. The meeting managers will determine the format and structure of the meeting, which will include the time allotment for a question-and-answer period. Loretta Bush noted that fact sheets are extremely useful communication methods to respond to questions when there are time restrictions.

James Lewis said that ATSDR already set up a meeting that was cancelled with EPA, so he thought planning had already occurred for that meeting; he expected that an agenda would have already been developed. He wants them to reach out to the community and not have a "business meeting." Loretta Bush explained the situation to the COWG. To her knowledge, a letter was sent to EPA in October or November 2003 requesting the agency's presence at the meeting, but EPA representatives were unable to attend the December meeting. In a follow up letter, ORRHES asked EPA to come to the February or March 2004 meeting, but EPA did not attend these meetings. Ms. Bush did not believe that any dialogue had previously taken place in reference to the meeting format because they were not initially planning a public meeting—originally, EPA was invited to attend an ORRHES meeting. Kowetha Davidson added that EPA was put on the ORRHES agenda during the last ORRHES meeting. Ms. Bush continued that prior to this last ORRHES meeting, there was no formal discussion about the agencies holding a public meeting. Therefore, an agenda was not developed because the EPA presentation was initially intended for ORRHES only. Dr. Davidson added that there had not been an opportunity for Jerry Pereira to meet with EPA about creating an agenda because the public meeting was not on the schedule until the last ORRHES meeting.

James Lewis said that when they have an issue of this magnitude, and the community has raised issues and concerns, he would have thought that something would have been designed to address the situation. Kowetha Davidson replied that the issue is not that EPA was not invited to present to the ORRHES; ORRHES invited the agency to speak at a meeting, but EPA did not attend. Mr. Lewis said that they needed to use the "weight of the office and follow protocols." If they did not follow these steps, then Mr. Lewis did not think they were aggressively pursuing their goal.

Susan Kaplan asked if they could meet to develop questions. Kowetha Davidson suggested that they direct their questions to ORRHES and have ORRHES generate the questions. She added that they needed to notify the public that they can also generate questions and ORRHES can give all of the questions to EPA at the meeting. Ms. Kaplan wanted her questions answered at the meeting and also a fact sheet with responses to the questions. Ms. Kaplan noted that if they did not give EPA the questions in advance, then the agency would not be prepared for the meeting. Loretta Bush said that they could take several approaches, but that they have to have a public comment period at this type of meeting. Barbara Sonnenburg asked for clarification. She wanted to know if the public could speak at the June 7, 2004, meeting, but that ORRHES members could not speak until the following day. Dr. Davidson said that this was incorrect. Instead, Dr. Davidson reiterated that if ORRHES submits questions, then the public should also submit questions. Ms. Kaplan said that Dr. Davidson was "doing what she does in ORRHES meetings" by "avoiding issues" and "diverting things back to ORRHES just as she always does."

Barbara Sonnenburg asked if Jerry Pereira could prepare a memorandum detailing the May 18, 2004, meeting with EPA. She then asked where the remote meeting was being held. James Lewis answered that the meeting would be held at DOE facilities. Ms. Sonnenburg asked if anyone would know how to find the location. Someone mentioned that Don Box had suggested having a meeting at his church. Ms. Sonnenburg added that people would know where the church was located. Karen Galloway thought people might be more comfortable at a church rather than at a DOE meeting location. Someone asked if there was a church available that was smaller than 1,500-capacity. Susan Kaplan suggested the League of Women Voters.

James Lewis said that they do not do a good job with discussing sensitive issues related to cancer or EPA issues. He thought they needed to stop avoiding issues and briefing the public in advance.

Barbara Sonnenburg asked who would chair the meeting. Marilyn Horton replied that ATSDR had hired a facilitator to conduct the meeting.

James Lewis said that cancer incidence is one of the "biggest and hottest issues" among the community. He presented an example of an advertisement to show the COWG how they needed to advertise for their meetings. He thought they could generate a large crowd and gain attention if they used this type of advertising.

Susan Kaplan informed Loretta Bush that the headline needed to include "public meeting."

James Lewis thought they needed to consider outstanding historical issues and document these issues for the public.

Peggy Adkins added two communities to target—senior citizen centers and union halls.

James Lewis said that Pete Malmquist was working with Dee Williamson on communications related to the cancer incidence review. Loretta Bush responded that Ms.Williamson has been working with Dr. Malmquist. Ms. Williamson indicated that she would prepare a fact sheet to present the findings, which would be provided to the community. Once Ms. Williamson has a draft fact sheet, she will share the draft with the COWG before it is finalized.

James Lewis wanted to ensure that everyone submitted their questions so that Jerry Pereira could forward them to EPA.

Kowetha Davidson reiterated that they needed to make sure the public was able to submit questions. Susan Kaplan suggested indicating this in the article. Marilyn Horton said that they could include it in the flyer. Dr. Davidson added that the public needed the same opportunities as ORRHES.

James Lewis said that the EPA issue is not well understood, but that the cancer issue was well understood. Because of this, he thought they should definitely have a public meeting for the cancer incidence review. Mr. Lewis asked if the group thought the cancer report would warrant this type of public meeting. Kowetha Davidson asked if this was going to be presented at the June 2004 ORRHES meeting, but Mr. Lewis did not know the answer. Marilyn Horton thought that Dee Williamson would present her findings to the Ad Hoc Work Group and the Public Health Assessment Work Group (PHAWG) before presenting at the June 2004 ORRHES meeting.

James Lewis adjourned the meeting at 6:30 pm.


 
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