Use Appropriate Information Sources
Learn about four key sources of site-specific information that could be useful for your public health evaluation: government agencies, Internet resources, community members, and the site visit.
During the PHA process, ATSDR relies largely on information and environmental data already collected as part of regulatory investigations. Identify and communicate with site-specific contacts to obtain data for your public health evaluation. Primary sources or mechanisms for obtaining site-specific information include:
Federal, stateexternal icon, local, and tribal government agency staff and documents are primary sources of information that may support the PHA process. These agencies include those that regulate site operations, oversee or conduct environmental or health investigations or monitoring, and maintain databases of relevant environmental or health data. These agencies also may assist in other ways, such as:
- Identifying local contacts including additional stakeholders and elected or appointed officials.
- Participating in site visits.
- Reviewing draft documents.
- Posting notices of public meetings.
- Providing information on community networks.
- Sharing mailing lists.
Remember: When multiple agencies are involved, it is imperative that the agencies communicate with each other so that any information released to the public is clear and consistent.
EPA oversees many hazardous waste sites, including NPL and RCRA sites. Work with ATSDR’s Regional Office Representative to coordinate with the EPA Remedial Project Manager, On Scene Coordinator (for sites in the removal program), and community relations staff who can be valuable resources for:
- Providing site background and status information.
- Providing the site’s Administrative Record, which contains a listing of all site-related documents (e.g., site sampling data).
- Identifying community contacts and existing information distribution channels.
- Developing a plan for joint public meetings and communication mechanisms.
- Responding to community requests for information.
- Minimizing the release of conflicting information to the public.
Similar information might also be available from other agencies or entities involved with a site.
Internet resources may be particularly helpful in the early stages of information gathering. While you can often obtain online information more easily and quickly than from traditional sources, they are not comprehensive or static. Resources are constantly changing and being added or removed. Also, keep in mind that anyone can post online information—but not all posted information is reliable. Pay close attention to the sources of all online information (as well as all other sources) and assess their reliability accordingly.
Environmental measurements collected by community members are an additional source of information (referred to as Citizen Science). While technology advances are making it easier for communities to collect their own environmental data, it does require a substantial investment of time, money, and other resources.
If a community is willing to make this investment, it is a good indication that they have a real health concern and are actively trying to address it. When a community or individual provides environmental data to ATSDR, evaluate them in a manner consistent with the PHA process. If your evaluation indicates the data are insufficient for assessing health risks, acknowledge the data and provide specific reasons why the data are not included in your document.