Helen DuTeau

Born: December 31, 1969

Helen DuTeau has been working with Superfund community involvement programs in the Environmental Protection Agency for more than twenty years. She explains the law that cites community involvement as an important factor in educating and engaging communities throughout the cleanup process. She describes the process of designing a community involvement plan and the points at which the community is encouraged to comment on the EPA's work. DuTeau has to balance communities' interests with the requirements of the law. She emphasizes that flexibility is the key to a successful remediation. Communities often form an advisory group (CAG), and host meetings in which citizens voice their opinions. Communication between EPA and CAG is crucial, especially in the early stages. DuTeau oversees community involvement activities for Superfund BoRit in Ambler, Pennsylvania, where asbestos-containing waste materials were accumulated. BoRit has an active and knowledgeable CAG. West Ambler, the community most directly affected, has two representatives in the CAG. Although the remedial investigation and feasibility study are not yet complete, the EPA has done extensive removal work at the site and residents are looking forward to a restoration of Whitpain Park. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0812
No. of pages: 15
Minutes: 40

Interview Sessions

Lee Sullivan Berry
13 March 2014
EPA Office Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Abstract of Interview

Helen DuTeau has been working with Superfund community involvement programs in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for more than twenty years. She explains the law itself and its revision (Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA)) that included community involvement as an important factor in educating and engaging communities throughout the cleanup process. She describes the process of designing a community involvement plan and the points at which the community is encouraged to comment on the EPA's work. DuTeau has to balance communities' interests with the requirements of the law, and she often has to balance competing and sometimes hard-fought opinions within a community. She emphasizes that flexibility is the key to a successful remediation, one attuned to the wishes of the people who must live with and use the site. Most often a community forms a community advisory group, or CAG, which formally elects leaders and structures its own meetings; in these meetings citizens voice their concerns about safety, their preferred method of remediation, and their hopes for the purpose of the site after remediation is complete. The meetings are open to the public, and an EPA representative—usually the Remedial Project Manager and Community Involvement Coordinator for the site—attend each meeting. Communication between EPA and CAG is crucial, especially in the early stages, though the internet has greatly simplified and expanded communication during later stages. DuTeau oversees community involvement activities for Superfund in region three; one of these sites is BoRit in Ambler, Pennsylvania, where asbestos-containing waste materials were accumulated. She says BoRit has an active and knowledgeable CAG. BoRit also covers several municipal jurisdictions whose interests are not always aligned; West Ambler, the community nearest and most directly affected, has two representatives in the CAG. Although the remedial investigation and feasibility study are not yet complete, the EPA has done extensive removal work at the site and residents are looking forward to a restoration of Whitpain Park. 

Table of Contents

General Introduction to Superfunds
1

Community involvement program. History of Superfund law, 1980 and 1986 Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA). How SARA works; kinds of input, beginning dates, explanation of community involvement plan and interviews. DuTeau's experience with Superfund. Balancing communities' interests and concerns with law's requirements. Managing community advisory group's members.

Structure of Community Involvement Plan
4

First meeting with community when remediation investigation starts. Investigation can last years. Flexibility necessary to satisfy individual communities. After investigation and feasibility studies complete, meeting to discuss plan; explain rejected choices; thirty to sixty days for public comment. EPA makes final decision; explains to community timeline for cleanup steps.

Community Advisory Groups (CAGs)
6

Seven or eight EPA sites in region three. Government sites not managed by EPA. BoRit CAG large, interested; contains several different jurisdictions; has been through one cleanup already, so knowledgeable. Structured and formal meetings. EPA a de facto member; attends every meeting. Meetings open to public; can get contentious. BoRit CAG meetings attracting fewer people now; website information easily available; meeting setup perhaps not conducive to participation. All jurisdictions affected by site represented at BoRit CAG; community nearest site has two representatives.

More Details of BoRit
11

Community involvement plan most important aspect of Superfund; education goes both ways. Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RIFS) for BoRit not yet complete; Jill Lowe. Removal another aspect of remediation; going on at BoRit before remediation studies complete. Eduardo Rovira. Post-remediation use of sites up to owners, not EPA. EPA's work more efficient if directed to particular use. Redevelopment authorities established by some communities. Assuring communities that particular uses are safe. West Ambler most affected by BoRit; involved in Whitpain Township redevelopment plan; wants recreational use to replace lost park. BoRit's community involvement and EPA's resources. Commitment by EPA and community to a satisfying remediation and redevelopment.

Index
15

About the Interviewer

Lee Sullivan Berry

Lee Sullivan Berry earned a master’s degree in medieval studies from the University of Notre Dame, and a bachelor of arts degree in religious studies from the University of Pennsylvania. As a staff member in the Center for Oral History, Berry conducts background research and oral history interviews, edits transcripts of completed interviews, and coordinates with interviewers and interviewees to finalize transcripts. She was the lead interviewer for the REACH Ambler project and has presented her work at meetings of the American Society for Environmental History and Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region.