10. STAKEHOLDER AND TRIBAL INPUT
ISM can be used in various stages of site investigation, including site characterization to evaluate whether a contamination problem exists, to identify and isolate contaminant source areas or high levels of concentrations (e.g., hot spots), or for confirmation sampling after a site has been cleaned up.
The current or future use of these properties determines the level and extent of stakeholder and tribal involvement in the decision-making process. For the purpose of this ITRC document, the term “stakeholder” represents the citizen stakeholder, community or environmental advocacy members, tribal members, and members of the affected public. “Tribal” represents the Indian tribes, pueblos, nations, et al.; Native Hawaiians; and Alaskan Native Americans (e.g., Tlingit, Athabascan) and Native Alaskans (e.g., Yupik, Inupiat).
Stakeholders want to be assured that site investigation activities and subsequent decisions “do no harm.”
Stakeholders and tribal members/environmental staff, like regulators, want to be assured that such activities “do no harm” and that the planned activities find all the contamination so it can be cleaned up. Active public stakeholders and tribes generally support planned activities and try to understand the processes used to characterize or clean up a site. During investigations, questions often are asked about how to know whether a chemical is there or not: “Was this area sampled, and why not sample over there?” Answering these questions requires open communication starting with initial planning and continuing throughout the project.
However, a vital difference between stakeholders and tribes is that tribes have government-to-government relationships with regulatory agencies and stakeholders do not. In fact, many tribes enforce their own EPA-approved water quality standards. Some tribes are now developing tribal risk assessments, which incorporate pathways and scenarios based on traditional and cultural routes of exposure, which in some cases are essentially and profoundly different than traditional risk assessments. Proposals to tribes that include ISM should demonstrate compliance with any tribal regulatory limits and should be part of a process that respects tribe’s government-to-government status.
There are times when stakeholders and tribes need a better understanding of how sampling is done and why sample locations are placed in particular spots. Sampling plans should aid the stakeholders and tribes in understanding those issues. This document may also prove helpful in explaining the challenges associated with soil sampling and how ISM addresses some key uncertainties associated with soil sampling.
The primary concern of the ISM approach, as expressed by several members of the ITRC stakeholder group and by some members of the ISM Team, is the idea of averaging away a hot spot. Even if a DU meets the regulatory threshold of 95% UCL for the COC, it may not alleviate the nagging question of whether or not that hot spot might someday become the location of a child’s sandbox or play area.
To reinforce this point, an example was cited at a location in New York City where the site of an old railway yard was being redeveloped for an elementary school. The site name is Mott Haven. The NYC School Construction Authority proposed to build a four-campus school on an old railyard in the Bronx. The sampling of the site isolated a hot spot. The contractor proposed compositing the samples which would meet the 95% UCL and avoid the need to remediate the hot spot. The local citizens group did not support this decision and intervened. The Bronx Committee on Safe Schools retained the New York Lawyers for Public Interest to review their concerns over the cleanup of the site, resulting in a reversal of that decision and the eventual remediation of the hot spot.
It is imperative that affected stakeholders be identified, engaged, and included in defining the sampling plan and cleanup objectives of the site.
This example illustrates the power of stakeholder influence and the degree to which citizens can be instrumental in the decision-making process. It is imperative that, during the systematic planning stage of a proposed ISM project for future public use, all affected stakeholders and tribes be identified, engaged, and included in defining the sampling plan and cleanup objectives of the site. In the case of the tribe(s), this may be because the tribe is a regulatory agency.
The information provided in this document may aid all parties in understanding how ISM is more likely to find contaminations rather than dilute the results. Questions regarding not all the soil being sampled or areas not being sampled and how to make sure nothing is missed relate not only to ISM but to discrete sampling approaches as well. The key point about ISM is that ISM results provide a more reliable estimate of the average concentration for the area being sampled.
The four case studies presented in this document include a PCB site on an isolated and uninhabited pacific atoll; a petroleum dump site in Prince of Wales Island, Alaska; a former golf course that is being redeveloped for an upscale housing development in Florida; and a former sugarcane plantation slated for an affordable housing development in Hawaii. These case studies illustrate the wide range of contaminants and geographical regions applicable to ISM.
The first two case studies are located on federally owned property and are not intended to be used by the public, but many federal facilities include citizen advisory groups or public comment periods that allow for community outreach and stakeholder involvement. The last two case studies are slated for housing developments and may have a direct impact on future residents. It is likely that stakeholder involvement will be critical for these redevelopment projects, and stakeholder interest may be heightened. Although these case studies do not specifically highlight the level of stakeholder involvement at these sites, it is important to note that stakeholder involvement can be a crucial element to the overall success of an investigation, particularly with using ISM. Also, it is imperative to remember that decision-making protocols with Indian tribes, Native Hawaiians, and Alaska Inuits need to be recognized. As stated earlier, in many cases, tribes have treaties with the federal government granting them regulatory authority over environmental cleanup on native lands. Keep in mind that political boundaries are a creation of the dominant culture; areas of tribal concerns may go beyond modern political boundaries to ancestral homelands. For example, a major DOE facility in New Mexico is sited entirely on the ancestral homeland of a neighboring tribe. In this case, DOE has honored the government-to-government relationship and has partnered with the tribe in monitoring efforts and in communicating early and often with the tribe on proposed actions which might affect the tribal members and resources.
By appreciating stakeholder and tribal concerns early on and through effective communication, it may be possible to better explain the proposed ISM for a particular site in a more open, transparent, and understandable fashion that meets the stakeholders’ expectations of fairness, as well as possible tribal regulatory requirements, and speaks to their concerns about risk on a level and in terms to which they can relate. The bottom line is that citizen stakeholders and tribes need to come away from any discussion with the sense that they and their loved ones are safe, and that no threat exists to their continued well-being. In the case of tribes, this confidence may need to extend to seven generations, which for many tribes is the length of time their stewardship of Mother Earth extends.