Community can form action group to address city’s Superfund sites, cleanup efforts
It was almost standing room only when area residents filled a meeting room in the Fridley Community Center for the first of two sessions for the EPA CAG informational meeting Jan. 30.
Representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave presentations and fielded questions on how to form a Community Action Group (CAG).
A CAG’s goal is to help the EPA make decisions on how to clean up a Superfund site. Superfund is the federal government’s program to clean up the nation’s uncontrolled hazardous waste sites, of which Fridley has five: three close to the Mississippi River south of I-694, plus one at the Fridley Commons Park well field and the Boise Cascade/Onan Corp./Medtronics site near Central and 73rd avenues. Fridley’s CAG could represent all five of the city’s Superfund sites.
A CAG includes about 15-20 local residents, representing a variety of interests and viewpoints, who are selected leaders based on membership applications by a steering committee of the local community. Membership could include property owners near the site, medical professionals, minority and low-income groups, environmental or public interest groups, facility owners, local business community members and anyone concerned about the Fridley superfund sites.
Elected leaders are not recommended to be part of the membership, but anyone can participate at the meetings, which are open to the public. If elected officials were also part of the 15-20 CAG members, that could disqualify the group for grants, EPA representatives said.
CAG membership is voluntary, the EPA representatives said, but members should be willing to commit to attending regular CAG meetings and serve two-year terms.
The EPA doesn’t create CAGs, nor does it create a CAG for every Superfund site; these groups are formed by request of the community and by the community. The EPA supports a group’s creation by talking about CAGs, providing a facilitator to help the group organize and funding research. The EPA and CAG also communicate with other agencies, including the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).
The EPA also provides Technical Assistance Services for Communities (TASC), which can help form the CAG and offers independent educational and technical assistance to communities and helps communities better understand and become involved in the cleanup process for hazardous waste sites. A TASC is for short-term help, is an EPA chosen contractor and is meant to be applied for simple issues. The EPA also offers a CAG a Technical Assistance Grant (TAG), which is a federal grant. TAGs are for long-term assistance, the CAG can use the funds to hire their own selected advisor and are meant for complex applications.
Besides conducting regular meetings, CAGs can also review technical information about Superfund site cleanup efforts, meet with the EPA and other groups to share information and resolve problems, relay community views and concerns about the site to the EPA and other agencies, and host educational meetings for the public or organize activities to increase awareness.
Some residents also inquired about the possibility of lobbying at the Legislature for changes in notifications for new residents and the possibility of opening a research center or clinic. While that’s not the purpose of a CAG, EPA representatives said, the CAG could help likeminded people to connect and form other groups to apply for grants, to lobby for their interests or to meet other goals. The CAG’s purpose would focus on discussing cleanup issues of Superfund sites and notifying agencies if a site’s cleanup efforts should be investigated.
To learn more about CAGs, TAGs and TASCs, visit epa.gov/superfund/community/cag or epa.gov/region5/cleanup/fridley/index.html.
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