Facilitating Stakeholder Engagement Around a Superfund Cleanup in Connecticut

CBI conducts an issues assessment around a contentious Superfund cleanup site in Stratford, Connecticut and facilitates a community advisory committee, allowing for increased community involvement in the cleanup decision making process.

Background and Challenges

Stratford, Connecticut, located just west of New Haven along the mouth of the Housatonic River, was once the home of Raymark, a manufacturer of brake parts for automobiles. Over the years, asbestos and other contaminants were dispersed throughout the town in fill that Raymark provided to small commercial businesses, residences, and the town government.

CBI worked with the Town of Stratford, Connecticut, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to address the environmental damage caused by fifty years of manufacturing asbestos-lined brake shoes. The U.S. EPA and the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution provided funding for this project.

The CBI Approach

CBI conducts an issues assessment, then convenes and facilitates the Raymark Advisory Committee.

The US EPA New England Region asked CBI and Environmental Mediation Services (EMS), to conduct a conflict assessment of the Raymark Superfund Site. Neighbors near a proposed site for consolidating waste from other parts of town raised strong concerns about EPA’s proposed remedial action for a nearby site. They were concerned about noise, traffic, general disruption to the community, the potential health impacts of airborne asbestos, and the lack of community involvement in decision making around the cleanup process.

CBI and EMS conducted a conflict assessment, and, based on the findings, EPA agreed to reconsider its approach to the Shore Road cleanup, and the town of Stratford agreed to convene a new community advisory committee facilitated by CBI and EMS.

As a result, the Raymark Advisory Committee (RAC) was formed. Its members include local businesses, concerned citizens, and representatives of affected neighborhoods. Stratford’s Health Department has played a crucial role in helping convene and advise the group. The RAC met monthly, and in its first six months, the group adopted groundrules, identified key objectives, reviewed the history of public health issues and site cleanup in Stratford, and focused on groundwater investigations. In the second six months of operation, the RAC reviewed numerous firms and selected GeoInsight, Inc, of Londonderry, New Hampshire to assist in independent technical review. They became a central component to the consensus building effort, providing independent advice to the RAC, reviewing numerous technical documents, and working closely with the US EPA and CT DEP to raise, address, and resolve issues ranging from the definition of waste on site to the best way to calculate the volumes of waste on individual properties.

Results

CBI helps align the RAC, town leadership, and environmental agencies, by assisting them in developing shared objectives.

Throughout the process, CBI assisted the RAC and environmental agencies in working through numerous issues, such as soil gas impacts on residences, the capping of a local boat club, and others.

As the final cleanup decision-date approached, CBI helped the the RAC, the town leadership, and the environmental agencies in developing shared objectives for the cleanup, which led to increased public approval for the new cleanup approach.  

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons/kittischoen