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Oak Ridge Reservation

Oak Ridge Reservation: Communications & Outreach Work Group

Historical Document

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Communications and Outreach Work Group

November 10, 2003 - Meeting Minutes


Members attending:
James Lewis (Chair), Peggy Adkins (phone), Karen Galloway, Marilyn Horton (phone), David Johnson, and Susan Kaplan

ATSDR Staff attending:
Melissa Fish, Jack Hanley (phone), Lorine Spencer (phone), and Bill Taylor

ERG Contractor:
Liz Bertelsen (phone)


James Lewis called the meeting to order.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the brief on the Y-12 Uranium Releases Public Health Assessment (PHA).

ORRHES Brief – Evaluation of Uranium Releases – Y-12 Plant – Oak Ridge Reservation

James Lewis began by saying that the original purpose of the brief was to help make the document user-friendly for the public and that it was designed to show the key issues. However, through feedback they have found that the document is not as user-friendly as they had hoped. In addition, Mr. Lewis read a letter from Terrie Sterling, with the Division of Health Education and Promotion (DHEP), that apologized for not being able to have any representatives attend the meeting.

Melissa Fish presented and read two overheads for the group. The first overhead talked about considerations for communication and the second overhead described the audience continuum. The first overhead noted that effective communication could only occur if information is "appropriately communicated to different audiences." The continuum showed people highly involved and interested in the process (e.g., technical experts) on the right side of the continuum and people who were not involved or interested in the process (e.g., lay public) on the left side of the continuum.

In order to gauge if the message was clear, Melissa Fish took some of the briefs to three different population groups to review. Her intent was to start targeting a "less technical audience." She handed out about 20 and received feedback from approximately 10 people. Ms. Fish stated that after reading the brief, people were still concerned about exposures. Also, when she asked if the brief said if there was a hazard, the people correctly answered "no." In addition, the group found the brief to be readable.

Melissa Fish pointed out that the brief needed consistent language. She said that three different phrases were used to say that there was no apparent health hazard. She thought that the brief should be consistent with the PHA and use the "no apparent health hazard" terminology.

Karen Galloway explained that she works in health physics at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). She gave the brief to three different people who she works with. The first person had a master's in public health and had worked at all three plants. In addition, he had over 20 years of experience as a supervisor of health physics at Y-12. He had the following comments about the brief:

  • explain air dispersion modeling
  • it was not clear to him that other contaminants were being addressed at another time
  • sometimes the brief switches from soluble to insoluble
  • were the most conservative estimates being used

Karen Galloway also gave the brief to an administrative assistant who had worked in the health physics field for 15 years and grew up in Scarboro. She had the following comments about the brief:

  • shorten it
  • does not know what EFPC is and has lived here all of her life
  • what is uranium and what does it do
  • what is mrem
  • ATSDR is not defined and had to search around for it
  • had objections with letterhead
  • not user-friendly
  • painful to read
  • could not get past the first page
  • figures should be in order
  • simplify and pass it out in community, then have a Scarboro meeting for those who do not understand and make sure that DOE is present

Karen Galloway also gave the brief to a high level supervisor in health physics who deals with workers' individual doses. He said the following:

  • ok for science people and health physicists
  • would be hard for a lay person, except last four pages
  • who is the target audience
  • questions if it is credible because he remembers in 1983, several pounds of uranium were lost up the stacks; if he lived in Scarboro, he would say "hog wash"
  • common people will find it hard to believe
  • ATSDR's approach is strange to him
  • so much uncertainty; nothing can be certain about what happened in the 1940s and 1950s when people used to carry irradiated substances with their bare hands

In regards to content, James Lewis thought the brief needed a history of Y-12. David Johnson thought that the outcome data were not for an average person.

James Lewis asked if they needed more than one type of document. He thought ATSDR needed to massage the document to reach more audiences. Karen Galloway did not think that they should abandon the document, but she thought that they could have a document for the public.

James Lewis thought the format should not be set up with questions that are then answered with a "no." Peggy Adkins agreed with Mr. Lewis. She thought this was "propaganda." Mr. Lewis asked, "If they don't list the health effects, what will people think?"

Karen Galloway asked where they stand in regards to additional research since the 1980s. Bill Taylor was not sure what she meant by studies, but there have been several studies done on uranium effects. He said that worker studies were not under their study area.

James Lewis thought that they needed to make it clear to people what they consider to be "exposed" and to talk about health effects. Bill Taylor noted that Figure 2 has radiation levels that they know cause effects and below that is the "gray level." He added that different regions of the world have different levels.

To answer a question about what is an MRL, Bill Taylor replied that it is the minimal risk level. It is a screening level that ATSDR uses, and if concentrations or doses are below MRL, then the agency believes that no health effects would occur. Susan Galloway recommended putting the MRL on the graph (Figure 2).

Peggy Adkins asked if there were any studies on wives of Y-12 workers, such as those that have been done on wives of Gulf War veterans. Bill Taylor said that they have done individual studies, but not on wives. James Lewis asked if that would be a pathway and Dr. Taylor said that it would be a pathway. Karen Galloway asked if this was within their scope. Dr. Taylor replied that he does not think about this a lot because they do not have data on it, and also, it is not viewed as a "typical" environmental exposure.

Melissa Fish wanted feedback on the brief and asked about the appearance of the text boxes. Peggy Adkins said that the brief needed an introductory paragraph about who ATSDR is and why they are doing this work in Oak Ridge. She added that there has been suspicion, questions, and uncertainty among the community. She said that ATSDR needed to say what it was asked to do and to say that the agency does not have all the information to date. Also, she suggested that ATSDR admit that it does not know everything and it does not have all of the answers, but that it has come up with its best efforts.

Melissa Fish asked about the "nos" that followed each question in the brief and wanted to know if they should be removed. Peggy Adkins thought that they should be taken out because they sound like propaganda. Ms. Fish said that she had been hearing this from many people. Jack Hanley asked if people would read further if these were removed. It was noted that the public could get this information from the table (Table1).

Melissa Fish suggested that they take off the "ORRHES" that precedes "brief." She did not think that it meant anything to anyone. Peggy Adkins suggested putting the website into the introductory paragraph that was to be added.

Susan Kaplan said that people would ask, "How would this impact me and why should I believe you?"

Karen Galloway said that the graphs needed bold lines that indicated where health effects would occur.

Melissa Fish noted that she made a list of words that should be defined. Also, in response to a question from a meeting participant, Ms. Fish asked Jack Hanley if Paul Charp would be able to say how much soil would have to be consumed in order to cause health effects. Mr. Hanley said that he would talk to Dr. Charp about this.

In regards to the brief's organization, James Lewis thought it should go from current to past. Bill Taylor thought this should be looked at, although he did not feel strongly about the issue.

Melissa Fish asked the COWG about the appearance of the brief. Everyone thought that the font, color, and other visual aspects were fine. In addition, they liked the text boxes.

James Lewis said that the brief needed to be specific for past and current.

Jack Hanley asked if people would understand the "10-x." Karen Galloway thought that they should have one "simpler version" and one version for technical people. She thought that the "10-x" and things of that nature should all be taken out of the "simpler version." She added that graphs do not need to be in this version either.

Jack Hanley thought that it made sense to take out the graphs. He asked about page 5, which dealt with enriched uranium. Bill Taylor said that this was not needed. Mr. Hanley asked if Table 1, Figure 1, and Figure 2 should stay in. Mr. Hanley was told to keep Table 1 and Figure 1, but that Figure 2 needed work before inclusion. In regards to Table 1, David Johnson said that the right hand column needed to be removed. Also, it was suggested that if there are no health effects that will occur based on the levels, then this should be included in ATSDR's conclusion.

Peggy Adkins suggested a different title to get the public's attention, "Some answers to some questions you've been asking about uranium."

Melissa Fish noted that James Lewis thought that the brief should indicate that workers were not evaluated. Peggy Adkins thought that this could be added into the introduction; they could say that they looked at the resident population, but provide resources for information on workers.

New Business

James Lewis wanted the minutes to be detailed. In addition, he said that he gave ATSDR the ability to make the brief "final."

Jack Hanley needed to have the brief for the December 2, 2003, meeting.

Action Items

  • Melissa Fish would have the brief back to Lorine Spencer by Friday, November 14, 2003.
  • Peggy Adkins will work with Melissa Fish on Wednesday (November 12, 2003) afternoon to help make the brief user-friendly for the community.

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