1998 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: "Theodore J. Henry" <thenry@umaryland.edu>
Date: 08 Apr 1998 10:25:22
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: Re: Community Involvement
In response to excellent questions by Ms. Brennan, see comments 
below (***)

On Tue, 7 Apr 1998, MAUREEN BRENNAN wrote:

> I have been following the "community involvement"
> debate and would be interested in knowing if
> anyone has kept any statistics on Brownfields
> redevelopments that track which projects had
> "community involvement" and what types.  Several
> commentators have stated that the cleanups or
> transactions go more smoothly when there is
> community involvement.  Has anyone done any work
> to track the timelines of projects with and
> without community invovlement?

***From this listserver, there are plenty of websites out there that
discuss successful brownfields projects.  As I have not visited many, I
cannot comment on whether or not any of them focus on the quality of
community participation that took place at such site. Certainly, this
would be very interesting information to obtain or produce.

 > > Has anyone doneany work to define the term
 > community?  I have had one project where the
> neighbors surrounding the project for several
> blocks in every direction were given substantial
> information about the nature of the contamination
> and the cleanup. 

*** A serious concern with Brownfields Projects just as in military
contamination restoration efforts, is whether or not "substantial"
translates into quality data or just a lot of useless information.  This
tends to be a very site-specific issue.

Several environmental groups, the
> members of which lived 15 to 30 miles away from
> the project, complained that the "community" was
> not informed because they didn't have the same
> data as the people who actually lived around the
> project. 

*** Certainly, environmental groups should have access to the same data.
In turn, a repository for such information should exist.  Yet, how to 
make contact with the "interested parties" is always a challenge. There
are some citizens that look to such environmental groups to track such
issues and keep the various sides on the "up and up", so their involvement
is not unreasonable even if they do not live in the immediate vicinity.
Often, these groups are quite familiar with regulations, history of the
company or regulatory agency, etc, and this knowledge makes it more
difficult for any particular group or person with questionable agendas 
(which of course may or may not exist at a given site) to overlook
important questions that should be answered before a project moves

> The people who lived around the project
> never saw these environmental activisits in what
> they considered their community.  

*** It is the responsibility of the environmental group to communicate
with the local community.  If they do not, there is significant question
as to whether they are any better than other parties who may have a
history of not listening to the local population.  Their input is
important. I may be naive, but given the hectic schedules that most
people have, I personally would be surprised if there are too many sites
where environmental groups are heavily involved where they are truly not
wanted by the local folks. But, then again, it may be quite common.

>How have members of this discussion group defined community?

***In the end, it is difficult to define "community", as it is highly a
site-specific issue. If one really wanted to try to define it, one may say
that "it is any party that shows that they may be affected by the eventual
outcome, or any party (that cannot show they could be affected) that is
invited to participate by the community (such as a technical advisor)".
But how does one define "may" or "affected"? In the end, it is probably
more often any party that shows interest. But again, it all depends on the
site.  Probably the best quote I have heard related to this issue was by a
Col. in the Army who said "I have many publics". A tough issue for sure. 


Ted Henry, MS
Community Health Assessment & Public Participation (CHAPP) Center
Program in Toxicology
University of Maryland
(410) 706-1767.

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