Involving Communities in Contaminated Site Remediation: A Lesson Learnt

One of my subject of interest in applying for YSEALI is hazardous waste management. In particular, the remediation process of contaminated sites. It is important for us to learn about the management in other countries and to improve the existing management that Indonesia already had. In addition, we also deal with the hazardous waste illegal dumping in East Java. During the orientation at ICMA office, one of the keynote speaker of ICMA staff described their program and one of them mentioned brownfield. The definition of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of brownfield is a property which its expansion, redevelopment, or reuse is complicated by the potential hazardous contaminant(s). EPA provides Brownfield grants to support revitalization by funding environmental assessments, clean up and job training.

I’ve got the opportunity to learn about it, when we visited De Soto, a city in Johnson County which close to a brown field – an ammunition plant. Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant (SFAAP) is a 9,065 acre plants to produce  propellants during 1942-1992. SFAAP is one of the 12,000 brownfields which is under The Army authority. The SFAAP isn’t funded via EPA’s Superfund, but directly from Department of Defense (DoD). The remediation is stepwise process which is started with: (1) verified the contaminant and it’s nature (including the extend of contamination); (2) evaluated under different alternatives; (3) regulator documented the preferred alternatives and solicited public comment; (4) implementation of the alternatives. The detailed process can be found and based on Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). RCRA is a law that specifies for treatment, storage, and disposal facilities.

SFAAP is divided into 95 sites was assessed, where 3 sites is close with no further action needed; 57 sites were being delineated and expected to finish in 2022; 35 sites isn’t worked yet. The army expected to clear out all the sites in 2028. Fund was spent for the remediation of SFAAP was USD 175 million and it is expected to get another USD 92 million to finish the remaining site. The highest contaminant in the area is nitro cellulose explosive residue, while others are heavy metals, petroleum, asbestos, and solvent. The nitro cellulose explosive were injected into woods, cotton, and other materials. The characteristic of major contaminant is explosive which limited the people who could visit and work.

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The army representative explained to community about the remediation map and RAB. Different color of the site show different contaminant.

The monitoring of process was being done by Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) after it is being delegated to them by EPA in 2015. KDHE responsible to review and approve the work plan and final documents, supervise field work, etc. The remediation process of SFAAP was including: (1) 15 football fields of concrete has been generated from the site; (2) 6 miles of piping has been pulled out of the ground due to most of the explosive residue was flushed away into the sewerage at that time.

Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) is a multi-stakeholder platform which consists of local community, the army, KDHE, local and state government, and appointed remediation company to discuss on the remediation process. In case of the SFAAP, the Sunflower Redevelopment LLC (SLC) – a developer  is responsible to remediate and later on have the authority to redevelop the area. RAB allows representative of community member to involve in the remediation process by providing input, concern, and access to specific information regarding the process. In addition to it, the representative have responsibility to reach out and spread the information to the communities.

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Materials is given during the public meeting

The army made announcement in the establishment of Sunflower RAB at different newspaper on April 22-30. In order to gain more public interest, The Army partnered up with KDHE and Johnson County to spread questionnaire. If there is enough interest, then RAB will be developed.

Lesson learnt from the public meeting were:

  • The government (in this case: The Army), the one who reaches out first to community and involving community in the remediation process via publishing RAB establishment interest in newspaper and questionnaire. In the case where we assist now, the community that  was being impacted by the illegal dumping had to do demonstration, and ask again and again to be informed on the environmental audit process.
  • The RAB gives community a platform for community to voice their concern and input to the remediation process. This platform that we don’t have it. Based on the our national regulation (PP) no 101/2014, there was no community involvement in the case of remediation process
  • Information transparency. The documents that was being produced in the remediation process can be accessed by public at the county library, and KDHE or other government website.
  • Good bargain, when The Army delegate the  remediation and redevelopment authority to the SLC, they were required to co-fund the remediation process (USD 32 million).

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