EASTWARD HO!/BROWNFIELDS TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE PROJECT
David L. Driscoll Ph.D., Consultant
The Eastward Ho!/Brownfields Technical Assistance Project formally began January 1, 1998 under the SfAA/EPA Cooperative Agreement. It was developed in response to concerns indentified by the Eastward Ho! Brownfields Partnership and by myself during my SfAA/EPA Fellowship from June to December 1997. This project involved preparing a community profile of the Model City community, working with members of the Brownfields Stakeholder Workgroup to develop and employ an outreach campaign to elicit community participation in the redevelopment of local brownfields, and assisting the Eastward Ho! Brownfields Partnership in creating a GIS map of the social organization and health conditions of the Model City Community. This report details how ethnographic and social marketing techniques contributed to a more socially informed and participatory environmental risk decision making process. It also discusses some difficult issues that confronted decision-makers working as partners in the remediation and redevelopment process.
This research was specifically undertaken with the assistance of, and for, an audience of federal and state agency environmental risk professionals and project administrators who work in the area of brownfields redevelopment. Applied and practicing anthropologists and other social scientists interested in the steadily growing opportunities for contributing to the fields of environmental risk assessment and management will also find the document useful. Finally, the local residents of the hundreds of thousands of potentially contaminated communities (especially those who live in the community that was the subject of this report) will find the subject matter of interest.
II. Background to the Project
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, public concern about the potentially adverse consequences of human exposure to environmental contaminants increased in the United States. As popular environmental concern and activism increased, American political officials passed a succession of laws intended to regulate industrial activity that may damage the public health and the environment at large. These pieces of regulation included the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1970, the Clean Air Act in 1970, the Clean Water Act in 1972, and the Endangered Species Act in 1973. As with the early environmental movement generally, most of these new regulatory initiatives did not differentiate between protecting the ecology and protecting the public health. Since the early 1970s many of these pieces of legislation have been steadily weakened by the insistent lobbying of regulated business interests seeking a return to the "status quo ante" (Block 1984:43).
In direct contrast to most environmental protections, federal legislation of industrial waste disposal has strengthened over the intervening years. The first law to focus entirely on the disposal of hazardous industrial waste was the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1974. The RCRA regulated the disposal of a few readily identifiable industrial pollutants in accordance with standards set out by Congress at the time of its implementation. The rather minimal regulatory process had been deemed acceptable at the time by an American political leadership preoccupied by an energy crisis, recession, and levels of unemployment not seen in decades (Dunlap 1986:36). The discovery of toxic waste beneath an elementary school and subdivision at Love Canal in upstate New York in 1978, however, incited a public outcry for greater federal regulation of hazardous waste disposal.
After Love Canal most members of Congress professed to a desire to quickly pass some sort of a law that did a better job than the RCRA in protecting, and cleaning up, contaminated communities. Despite this apparent unanimity the Congress debated the actual nature of the new legislation for over two years. The quiet partisan wrangling was eventually resolved by a huge Republican victory in the 1980 elections that forced Democratic lawmakers to accept a compromise bill rather than risk an even weaker bill after the new Republican dominated administration began. Thus the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), together with its funding arm, the Hazardous Substances Response Fund (Superfund) was signed into law in late 1980 by President Carter just weeks before he was replaced by Ronald Reagan.
The CERCLA was intended to identify and prioritize hazardous waste sites, use a Superfund of $1.6 billion dollars to clean up those sites, and finally to assign legal responsibility for their contamination and cleaning. From its inception, the new law was plagued by design flaws that would have unintended ramifications. One of the most immediate consequences of the CERCLA was the unconventional challenge it posed for the agency charged with administering it, the EPA. Whereas the RCRA had directed the agency to enforce certain predetermined regulatory standards for a few pollutants, the CERCLA required the EPA to make difficult regulatory decisions based upon the potential public health risks imposed by a wide range of chemical compounds. The EPA found itself in need of a scientifically credible standard for making and defending regulatory decisions that were unpopular with some of the many interest groups lobbying for and against regulation of particular pollutants or properties. The methods of environmental risk assessment fulfilled this requirement.
Environmental Risk Assessment
Environmental risk assessment refers to the characterization of potential adverse health effects of human exposures to environmental hazards (Griffith, Aldrich, and Drane 1993:213). Stimulated by the social and political context of the late 1970s, the methods of environmental risk assessment were developed to identify and categorize risks, to assess them, and to evaluate alternative coping strategies (Lawless, Jones, and Jones 1986:158). These methods introduced "a common denominator by which the administrator could rationalize and defend" regulatory decisions within the new industry-friendly administration (Andrews 1994: 217). The scientific language of risk assessment ultimately provided the EPA with a way to control debate about environmental regulation after passage of the CERCLA.
One of the first assumptions risk assessors make in their research is that all populations encounter some form of potentially harmful exposure as a product of the natural as well as the social environment. While local residents are often loath to accept any level of health risks from environmental pollutants, risk assessors seek to determine whether or not a potential exposure is acceptable, rather than merely present or potential (Aldrich et al. 1993:249). The acceptability of certain risks over others is determined by a complex set of governmental statutes based on primarily on laboratory data as to the likely effects of certain levels of exposure. The data obtained in a risk assessment are particularly informative when the focus of the investigation is the public health risks imposed by relatively short-term, intensive human exposures to one or two chemical compounds. Because this is often the situation in investigations of heavily contaminated properties like Love Canal, the reliance on quantitatively defined risk has served the EPA well for nearly two decades. Recently, however, the EPA has begun to grapple with another type of contaminated property defined under the CERCLA, and the adequacy and accuracy of the risk assessment methodology have come into question.
The Brownfields Problem
A second important ramification of the CERCLA was the creation of what has become referred to as the brownfields problem (Suchman 1996:63). When the CERCLA was approved in 1980, lawmakers had seriously underestimated the number and severity of contaminated sites nationwide. The law had been designed with the expectation that fewer than 400 significantly contaminated sites would be found throughout the United States. Less than 16 years later, the National Priority List (NPL) of heavily contaminated properties slated for cleanup under the CERCLA contained over 1,200 sites with another 30,000 still awaiting consideration (Suchman 1996). The law had been designed with a Superfund of $1.6 billion dollars to fund the cleanup of, and litigation assigning legal responsibility for, the nations heavily contaminated sites. Factoring in the fact that each NPL site requires several years and around $30 million to clean, under the current Superfund policy the cumulative costs of the program is expected to cost between $100 and 300 billion over the next 30 years (Graham and Sadowitz 1994: 35).
While the EPA has regulated the tedious cleanup of NPL properties, the nations lightly contaminated properties, or brownfields, have remained entangled in regulatory red tape. A secondary purpose of the CERCLA was to ensure that polluters pay for the cleanup. Once contamination is discovered on a site, the law allows the EPA or any private party to file suit against anyone even tangentially associated with the property to recoup the costs of cleanup. These legal responsibilities apply to anyone associated with a heavily contaminated property on the NPL, or one of the more than 500,000 lightly contaminated brownfields around the nation. These potentially responsible parties may include individuals who bought the contaminated property without knowledge of the contamination, the real estate agent that administered the sale, and even the financial institution that made the loan.
A consequence of the broad net used by the CERCLA to assign responsibility for contamination has been a general unwillingness on the part of banks and developers to participate in redeveloping such sites. The vast majority of brownfields are thus presently abandoned or under- used due to the costs and liability associated with opening them up for redevelopment. The greatest costs, however, are borne by the people who live in neighborhoods containing brownfields. These costs include potential health hazards (especially acute for children), deterioration of the tax base supporting social services, and lack of local sources of employment.
A significant percentage of the residents of these contaminated communities are members of ethnic minority and low-income populations. Many waste producing industries have made it standard policy to create and dispose of hazardous waste in neighborhoods that are least able to resist, often lower income, minority communities (see for example Cerrell Associates and Powell 1984:17). Due to low home-ownership rates in these communities, it is difficult for local residents to say "not in my backyard" when they do not own their backyard (Bullard and Wright 1987). A variety of researchers have illustrated that minority and low-income communities get more than their fair share of pollutants (Bryant and Mohai 1992, Bullard 1993, Bullard and Wright 1986, Burke 1993, Goldman 1991, Higgins 1991, Lavelle and Coyle 1991, Mohai and Bryant 1992, U.S. General Accounting Office 1983). A study carried out by the Commission for Racial Justice for United Church of Christ found that race was more important as a predictor of hazardous waste site location than the soil type, hydrology, or climatological conditions of a region (1987).
Government Responses to the Problem
In the absence of federal funds, several recent federal initiatives have attempted to stimulate independent cleanup and redevelopment of brownfields by actually weakening enforcement of the CERCLA. The Presidents 1993 Executive Order on Environmental Regulation (E.O. 12866) directed federal agencies that work on brownfields issues to consider on a case-by-case basis whether the benefits of enforcing environmental laws such as the CERCLA justify the costs to the public health represented by a vacant and contaminated brownfield. And in 1994, the Presidents Executive Order on Environmental Justice (E.O. 12898) directed all federal agencies to examine their policies and determine if federal actions impose disproportionate adverse health and environmental effects on minority and low-income populations. These initiatives are founded on the idea that independent (if incomplete) cleanup and redevelopment is better than abandonment and continued contamination for the nations potentially contaminated communities (for a more extensive discussion of this argument read Breyer 1993).
Most states have recently passed similar legislation weakening regulatory standards to stimulate the cleanup and redevelopment of brownfields. The Florida Brownfields Redevelopment Act (ss.366.77.-376.84 Florida Statutes) is one example. It allows regionally-based pollution control agencies, or the State Department of Environmental Protection, to plan and supervise the cleanup of brownfields according to the principles of Risk Based Corrective Action (RBCA). RBCA was developed in response to demands from both the public and the private sector for an economically feasible method for dealing with the brownfields problem. The application of RBCA principles to brownfields redevelopment basically entails minimizing the human health risks posed by a site without completely cleaning it up. Some alternatives include institutional methods of remediation such as land use and deed restrictions, or engineering methods such as impermeable concrete caps over the contamination.
As with passage of the CERCLA nearly twenty years before, the recent federal and state brownfields initiatives pose a significant challenge for the EPA as well as for state regulatory agencies around the nation. Assessing and minimizing the environmental health risks associated with the various cleanup strategies proposed by these programs gives rise to a host of new issues for which the traditional risk assessment methodology was not designed. These methodological shortcomings arise from obvious differences between NPL risk assessments, which consider short-term exposures to high levels of one or two contaminants, and brownfields risk assessments, which must consider long-term exposures to low levels of a complex mix of contaminants. In addition to methodological deficiencies, traditional risk assessment models are challenged by recent legislative requirements to facilitate resident input in the assessment and management process, something the risk assessment community has avoided, but which is now mandated by most state laws, including Floridas.
Recognizing these shortcomings the EPA has expressed an interest in a new approach that gives more consideration to multiple sources, routes, and consequences of exposure. This proposed Cumulative Risk Assessment model as envisioned by the EPA includes a commitment to recognizing certain characteristics of the community at risk (age, gender, disease history, and developmental stage) and to eliciting a representative resident participation in planning the assessment and management of environmental health risks (USEPA 1997:1-3). One recent EPA program, the Brownfields Economic Redevelopment Initiative (BERI), sponsors state agency officials, community members, and other stakeholders to work together in designing a more informed and participatory risk assessment model to clean up and redevelop brownfields (USEPA 1996).
Despite the investment in time and money, progress on the new methodology has been slow. Most environmental health professionals are unfamiliar, and many are uncomfortable, with the need to learn about community behavior, organization, and concerns. The traditional one-way flow of information from the expert to the community did not require such knowledge, and now risk assessors often struggle with the design and timing of social research and outreach procedures. In a typical early BERI pilot program, administrators in the City of Miami sought to learn about and involve local residents very late in the process after the assessment had been conducted and the redevelopment strategy selected. In this situation, the city gave a voice to an active and outraged community whose demands and concerns were intensified by what they perceived as a marginal role in the risk management process. As with many Miami City neighborhoods that contain brownfields, this one was confronted by a host of associated social problems including high unemployment, crime, and poverty rates.
While the outside experts and policy makers only saw only the problem that they were trained address, local residents saw the issue in terms of an entire assemblage of problems. A natural result of this dichotomy in lay and professional perceptions of the problem is a concurrent dichotomy in opinions as to the best way to remediate and redevelop communities containing brownfields. The Florida Brownfields Redevelopment Act is an example of one model of development. It is conducted in the same manner as modernization theorists implemented the Marshall Plan; by injecting capital, rebuilding infrastructure, and allowing economic growth to follow. Local residents, conversely, are often proponents of the dependency model of development. In the case of the Miami project, residents complained that the developer represented investors from outside the local community. They pointed out that the new industry, a concrete plant, offers low-paying, unskilled jobs to create a product that is then transported and sold outside the local community. These residents preferred an alternative form of redevelopment that allowed them a role in selecting the remediation strategy employed as well as the industry that would emerge on the former brownfield.
III. The Project
The Eastward Ho!/Brownfields Technical Assistance Project was created to assist in the implementation of a participatory model for redeveloping brownfields in South Florida. The Project represented a continuation of work that I conducted as a SfAA environmental anthropology fellow in 1997 as part of a second BERI project in the region. Both the first and second technical assistance projects are associated with an ongoing initiative to protect and restore the Everglades Ecosystem referred to as the Eastward Ho! Initiative.
Southern Florida generally, and Miami-Dade County specifically, is undergoing a period of unprecedented growth and development. In response to this trend, a Governors Commission was created to develop an action plan for a sustainable development strategy in South Florida. The Commission membership suggested, among other things, that a partnership of local, state, and federal agencies be formed to stimulate eastward redevelopment of an underdeveloped region referred to as the Eastward Ho! Corridor rather than continued westward expansion into the wetlands.
One of the first projects by the so-called Eastward Ho! Taskforce was the successful application for the entire Eastward Ho! Corridor to be selected as one of ten National Brownfields Showcase Communities. The application filed by the Taskforce had described my Fellowship work as an example of ongoing efforts to involve the local community. The Showcase Communities initiative is administered by an Interagency Working Group on Brownfields that includes over 20 Federal departments and agencies. Together these agencies offered the Taskforce technical and financial assistance totaling up to $28 billion to assist with the cleanup and redevelopment of local brownfields. The Eastward Ho! Corridor became the focus of a disparate assemblage of federal partners all of whom were eager to pay for or participate in outreach efforts.
As the first step in this initiative, the Eastward Ho! Taskforce selected the Model City community of northern Miami-Dade County as the ideal location for the new participatory approach. The community had been slated for renewal as part of the Model Cities Program in the 1960s, and since that time the residents of Model City have been the dubious beneficiaries of a variety of federal, state, and local revitalization efforts. In addition to the federal program that gave the region its name, Model City as a whole or in parts has received attention from the Weed and Seed program, the Florida Empowerment Zone initiative, the Federal Community Development Block Grant program, and the Miami-Dade County Economic Development Priority Area Project, just to name a few.
Despite the combined attentions and funds lavished on the region by these government programs, Model City continues to have very high poverty and unemployment rates. According to a revitalization area profile developed by Miami-Dade County Department of Planning, Development and Regulation in April 1998, both the poverty and unemployment rates grew during the 1980s, and have continued to do so. A survey conducted in 1997 by the Miami-Dade County Office of Community and Economic Development found that since 1980, the number of Model City residents living in poverty has increased from 37 to 49% while the unemployment rate (among those looking for employment) rose from 9 to 15%. Nearly half of all Model City residents are neither employed nor looking for work, and over a quarter receive some form of public assistance.
The widespread poverty in the region is exacerbated by certain social trends. According to a state 1995 census, most Model City households are composed of a single mother and her children, and only one in five children live in married couple households. The vast majority of these young mothers failed to complete high school, and only 60% are even marginally literate. Less than half of all Model City residents over the age of 18 completed high school as compared to a nearly 70% county-wide average. Finally, and consistent with housing patterns earlier, the majority of Model City families rent, and they live near dozens of brownfields.
A primary objective of my Fellowship in 1997 had been to field test a strategy for identifying and involving a representative cross-section of community residents in planning the remediation and redevelopment of a second BERI pilot site in the region. My responsibilities included collecting data for a community profile of residence patterns, social organizations, and local goals and concerns regarding the remediation and redevelopment of the Poinciana Industrial Center. During the course of this Fellowship I suggested a method for using this data to develop an outreach strategy for eliciting public input in the remediation and redevelopment process.
The basic aim of the community outreach model that I envisioned was to enhance the residents ability to understand, diagnose, and map out strategies for dealing with their own communitys problems, also called community-based problem solving competency (Hartford 1983). This is a complicated procedure in any community, and promised to be even more so in as complex as setting as Model City. The remediation and redevelopment of lightly contaminated properties involves a variety of difficult, and potentially conflicting, considerations regarding public health ramifications. While some members of a community might agree to have a risky yet lucrative industrial park in their area if it included a source of employment, other members of that or a neighboring community would be opposed to the slightest risk regardless of the cost (see for example Balshem 1993). Dealing with these issues may go beyond the ability of a single participatory model or legislated policy. Nevertheless, these considerations require a truly representative participatory process wherein local residents are offered the opportunity to influence decisions impacting on the local environment and economy.
In a presentation to the Taskforce as a Fellow, I maintained that participatory development must involve an active attempt to elicit informed community participation through organized outreach efforts. I suggested that linking anthropological research methods and social marketing would produce an effective approach for both educating local residents about, and involving them in, the remediation and redevelopment process. The application of ethnographic research methods in this model was intended to contribute to the assessment of potential health risks in the community, as well as to collect residents perceptions regarding the management of those risks during redevelopment. The social marketing method involves using ethnographic data concerning why local residents may or may not be willing to participate in the redevelopment process to identify segments and strategies for reaching the targeted audience segments.
One danger of lacking a clear plan is that the process can be redirected to benefit one group or interest over others. While the field of risk assessment grapples with questions of participation and public input, social scientists can contribute by describing exactly what public participation entails, and how best to achieve it. In the absence of such a plan, other, counterproductive participatory models will be adopted. For example the Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA) has developed a model that involves a meticulously selected committee of several dozen local residents participating in carefully scripted meetings with industry leaders. A recent anthropological study of the CMA approach has documented how the industry effectively turns public participation into a successful public relations instrument that has created a generally favorable image of the industry locally, without actually responding to the health concerns of the community (Moberg 1998).
The first phase of this project involved the application of ethnographic techniques in a rapid assessment procedure to develop a profile of the site-use patterns, organization, and perceptions of community residents. Specific research goals for this phase of the study included mapping the residential structure of the community, developing a database of the organizations that exist in the community, observing resident behavior on local brownfields, and determining residents perceptions and concerns regarding the remediation and redevelopment of local brownfields.
Data collection and analysis were guided by select components of the social marketing framework employed in the second phase of the study. Social marketing involves the application of commercial marketing methods to the analysis, planning, execution, and evaluation of programs designed to influence the voluntary behavior of target audiences in order to improve their personal welfare (adopted in part from Andreason 1995:7). As with commercial marketing, social marketing methods rely upon the collection of information on the social organization, desires, and concerns of a target audience in order to design and market a product, message, or service more effectively. Anthropological research methods have proved helpful in the past for assessing and interpreting those sociocultural factors that affect the behavior of target audiences (Brown 1997). Ethnographic data were used in this study to identify audience segments with shared perceptions regarding redevelopment of a neighborhood brownfield, to identify the perceived benefits and barriers to the participation of the various target populations in planning that redevelopment, and finally to identify appropriate places and media for outreach messages.
The second phase of the technical assistance project was the development of specific outreach messages designed according to the data obtained in the first phase. This took place with the assistance of local community residents and activists in a series of strategy sessions during which we discussed interpretations of the data gathered and refined outreach messages for certain target populations within the community. This phase of the project concluded with the actual implementation of these messages in order to encourage a specific behavior within the population studied. Messages were developed and media chosen that were most likely to reach specific sub-populations while they were most receptive, and convince them to participate in local public hearings.
Finally, the community organizational data were to be placed in a Geographic Information System or GIS database. GIS databases contain information on areas of interest, or features. For each feature the geographic database contains X-Y coordinates which define that feature in space. It may also contain datapoint files on particular elements within features. These can be integrated with non-spatial information management systems like Dbase or MSaccess to provide economic, demographic, morbidity, and contamination data associated with any feature. This makes it possible for social scientists to input ethnographic data as to the residential and site-use patterns of local residents along with the distribution and frequency of diseases in that community to create a description of the exposure potential for local residents. Geographic patterns of disease are useful in developing and testing hypotheses as to their etiology, or the causative factors associated with that disease. The resulting spatial representation is readily understood by risk professionals as well as local residents and can have a variety of uses for the assessment, communication and management of public health hazards.
The contaminant data supplied by Dade County Department of Environmental Resource Management (DERM), as well as pertinent data obtained from the health records of several local elementary schools and the state Department of Health, were placed in a GIS database of the region. The resulting descriptive cross-sectional study was intended to define concurrences of potential sentinel health events that may represent disease clusters resulting from pediatric exposure to environmental contaminants. Children are especially susceptible to environmental contaminants as a consequence of their size and behavior patterns. A space-time aggregation of contaminants and pediatric health events could demonstrate a spatial association, as well as provide data for comparison to national data.
IV. Project Results
Implementation of the case study design illustrated not only how ethnographic and social marketing techniques can augment the remediation and redevelopment of brownfields in southern Florida, but also brownfields in other areas around the state and the nation. The application of ethnographic research methods in a rapid assessment procedure revealed aspects of community behavior, organization, and concern. The ethnographic data were interpreted using components of the social marketing conceptual framework to develop consumer oriented outreach strategies for specific audience segments. Some, but not all, of the strategies were implemented in the actual creation and promotion of outreach messages. This approach had an important impact on the ultimate success of the outreach strategy.
Community Report: Archival Research
A review of the local newspaper archives provided a glimpse of the contentious nature of urban redevelopment in the region. Northern Miami-Dade County has been the target of race-driven development processes for over 70 years. It was one of a handful of communities in the nation that was officially zoned "Colored" by city planners even after the Supreme Courts landmark Buchanon v. Warley decision made the practice illegal in 1917 (Silver 1997: 32). The demographic data (Figure 1) suggests that the consequences of racial zoning, the separation of African-American and White residential sections, continues today. In the late 1940s, the region was targeted along with countless other inner-city neighborhoods for "urban renewal," and large sections of the predominantly African-American community were bulldozed to make way for redevelopment (Thomas 1997:143). In 1966 the region was once again selected for redevelopment as part of President Johnsons Model Cities program, a program that ultimately failed to benefit local residents due to inadequate funding and poor federal leadership (Thomas 1997:144). Add to this the failed government interventions described earlier and the process of eliciting local support for the proposed government intervention to remediate and redevelop brownfields in Model City becomes a far more complex task.
Community Perceptions. Reinforcing this point, over the last decade a succession of articles in the Miami Times (the local black-run newspaper), have attacked Miami-Dade County, the State, and the Federal Government for their inability to cleanup and redevelop the PIC despite repeated attempts and thousands of dollars spent. Many of these articles mentioned a common perception that local brownfields have been left undeveloped to punish the community for a history of riots. I heard this belief repeated several times during interviews with local residents, but local and state representatives fiercely denied this contention in individual interviews. Regardless of the accuracy of the claims, archival research indicated that Model City has become an important symbol of continued environmental injustice and government inefficiency for the regions African-American population. Just a few days after Vice President Al Gore announced the selection of the Eastward Ho! Corridor as a National Brownfields Showcase Community one Miami Times article pointed to the lack of community input in the redevelopment of region as an example of how little things had changed. One activist who was actually working as part of the participatory redevelopment process at the time was quoted as saying "You cant have justice when the community is not participating in the decision, or know what decisions are being made" (Holness 1998:2).
Demographics. Another archival source, the 1990 federal and 1995 state census data on the region, generally reinforced my observations as to the demographic distribution of the community. Both sources suggest that well over 90% the residents of the census block are African-American, and the majority of the remaining residents are Hispanic (see Figure 1). To the immediate north and west of the Model City census unit is the predominantly Hispanic section of northern Miami-Dade County called Hialeah Park. Here the percentages are nearly exactly reversed, where well over 90% of the residents are listed as Hispanic, and the majority of the remaining are African-American. The Hispanic residents of Model City thus do not compose an isolated enclave, but are the edge of a large Hispanic neighborhood with its own set of stores and restaurants. This is important because these community members would no doubt remain unaware of the Countys flyers or notices posted (in English) at most nearby stores and restaurants.
Figure One: Community Demographic Breakdown (1995)
Health Hazards. A lengthy search of the Miami-Dade County Department of Environmental Resource Managements (DERMs) property assessment records reveal several known or suspected human carcinogens and other dangerous chemical compounds in the soil and groundwater of local brownfields. Children can be especially susceptible to environmental contaminants as a consequence of their size and behavior patterns, which I detail in the following section.
Community Report: Observational Data
In addition to archival research, I conducted structured observation of childrens site use patterns on several brownfields identified by DERM. I visited each site for a period of several hours at a time at different times of the day and evening and mapped out the locations of childrens activities on the property. These observations suggested that children in the region, particularly children from local public housing projects, were potentially exposed to environmental contaminants. Some of the most common behaviors I observed on local brownfields included recreational use of the sites for playing, hanging out, and even fishing, as well as for pedestrian traffic. Observational data were combined with the data obtained from an analysis of DERMs property assessment records to develop a list of those dangerous chemical compounds to which local children were most likely to be exposed (Appendix A). In subsequent meetings with local health care providers and public health specialists, I identified pediatric asthma and dermatitis as the two sentinel health events most likely associated with childrens exposure to those contaminants.
I also collected observational data on local community organization. Participant observation of the Model City neighborhood began in the spring of 1998 and ended in May of the following year. Deliverables consist of a database of formal and informal Model City community organizations (Appendix B), which was supplemented over time with structured interview data from representatives of each organization thus identified. Interview data included contact names for each organization, titles, addresses, phone numbers, mission statements, and populations served.
Finally, semi-structured interviews with members of the identified community organizations furnished insights into local perceptions of risk and developmental preferences. The study results suggest that while most residents felt that participating in the local public hearings might be important, the primary reason for doing so varied according to the age, ethnicity, and profession of the individuals interviewed. Young women were particularly interested in participating in the remediation process as a method for protecting their own as well as the health of their children, while young men were often more interested in the economic aspects of the redevelopment strategy. Older residents, who were most likely to own their own homes, were most often interested in participating in the remediation and redevelopment process in order to protect local real estate values. Finally, some of the most active residents were local developers, construction workers, or businesspeople who felt that the remediation and redevelopment process could have an immediate and beneficial effect on their own businesses. Most community residents were skeptical of government attempts to elicit local input, particularly using public hearings, and most preferred a more active outreach process that involved making presentations and asking for residents input at meetings of existing community organizations (for complete details see Driscoll 1999).
Developing the Outreach Strategy
These semi-structured interview data were interpreted in strategy sessions with local residents and community activists using certain components of the social marketing conceptual framework. This was actually the most time-consuming and contentious phase of the study, and the most problematic for future applications of the strategy implemented. The actual development and promotion of the outreach strategy used was administered by a "local advisory committee" created under state brownfields law. These committee meetings took place in Model City, were open to the public, and were usually attended by representatives from DERM, the Eastward Ho! Brownfields Taskforce, the local Weed and Seed organization, and the Miami-Dade County Community Action Agency, as well as professional community activists from outside the PIC neighborhood, one or two local residents, and myself.
The meetings of this committee took place on a biweekly basis for about eight months beginning in March 1998. They were immediately characterized by an almost complete lack of productive communication between the professional activists and the government representatives. The professional activists would accuse members of DERM of using RBCA to whitewash environmental health risks in the local community, and would demand that all brownfields in the region be completely remediated. They would accuse the Taskforce of taking the millions of dollars being given to the area and alternately pocketing it or spending it on outside consultants "from as far away as Tampa," referring to myself.
The DERM and Taskforce representatives would respond by first defending themselves, and ultimately by accusing the activists of hijacking the hearing agenda and of not working toward realistic goals. Both groups would use the regions media to attempt to defend their own actions as well as to increase participation by proponents of their own perspectives. The handful of local residents in attendance would often side with the professional activists in these disputes despite the fact that they were unaware of any public health risks, and most were very interested in seeing economic development in their community. When the Weed and Seed coordinator, a Black Muslim and local resident, attempted to intercede in one such heated exchange he was called an "Uncle Tom" by one of the activists and left the meeting in a rage.
It was during this period of dissension that the committee heard my initial report on the ethnographic data gathered and the interpretations of the study data. I suggested that several outreach messages be prepared to speak to young women, young men, older residents of both genders, and businesspeople separately. My suggestions included refining and placing outreach messages so as to reach each of the segments to ensure a representative sample of local residents attend local meetings at which committee members might speak. After my presentation I was instructed to continue gathering data on local community organizations, while the entire committee membership discussed how to go about developing the outreach messages using the interview data obtained. These deliberations went on for several months. Most of the local residents who had come to the first meetings, and who were among the few people not being paid to attend, stopped coming because of the lack of productive engagement.
Ironically, it was after most local residents had stopped attending the committee meetings by June of 1998 that we began to make true progress toward an outreach campaign. Without an audience of local residents the professional activists seemed less inclined to engage in attacks on the government representatives. In an interview with one of these activists I asked about this apparent dynamic and he said he had to "keep the trust" of local residents by adopting an extreme stance to avoid being perceived as conciliatory toward distrusted government agencies. Indeed, regardless of the friendly atmosphere in the meeting, these activists continued to mount attacks in the local black newspaper on the participatory process that they were helping to create. This was a continuing source of frustration and confusion for representatives of DERM and the Taskforce who felt betrayed by the media attacks that did damage to their carefully-crafted image of community support before the EPA.
In an effort to maintain this new cooperative spirit within the committee, the local government representatives would usually defer to the professional activists in developing outreach messages. These activists were unwilling to develop outreach messages that focused on anything other than the potential public health effects of the proposed RBCA redevelopment of local brownfields, and advertized a public hearing at which government representatives would appear. Ultimately, despite the fact that none of the activists were from the community, and that their perceptions were often different from those I found in my research, their ability to damage this image of community participation and support prompted representatives to accede to their demands.
Implementing the Outreach Strategy
The last stage of the outreach campaign took place from August to October of 1998, and consisted of selecting the proper media and locations for communication of the outreach messages selected in the previous stage. All of the committee agreed that flyers describing the brownfield initiative and the time and location of the meeting were to be written in the appropriate languages, and posted in areas identified as being heavily trafficked by the members of the appropriate social segment. Messages were also to be delivered on the local AM radio station, and notices placed in the Miami Times. Hand delivered circulars and door-hangers were to be produced and local children were paid to place them. Finally, all these messages were to be locally made and purposely lack the slick "government-look" identified by the committee membership as most likely to be ignored.
Despite this consensus in how the strategy should be implemented, the actual placement of the outreach message proved problematic. The first public hearing was scheduled for the afternoon of Saturday October 17th, 1998 at a local Middle School. In attendance were representatives of the EPA, the Mayor's and Governors Offices, DERM, the Partnership, the local County Council, Weed and Seed, and the Community Action Agency. There were also poster presentations by environmental organizations such as the Arbor Foundation and the Sierra Club. The meeting began with presentations by federal, state, and local representatives describing what a brownfield was and how RBCA worked. After a catered lunch we had break-out sessions in which the participants could vote on an area of the prospective participatory risk assessment as well as discuss the remediation and redevelopment of the PIC. Finally, a spokesperson from each break-out session described the results of the discussion in their session and a collective vote was taken on the strategy to be implemented. All in all, the meeting involved the work of dozens of federal, state, and local officials, and thousands of dollars in preparation and catering costs.
The local turnout at this public hearing was disappointing. The number of governmental representatives at the meeting actually exceeded that of the local residents. At a meeting of the local advisory committee preceding the hearing it quickly became apparent that the professional activists who had volunteered for the outreach effort had failed to implement the outreach strategy agreed upon. Although they had asked for, and been given the list of media outlets (radio and newspapers), local religious leaders, and other information sources in the community that had been painstakingly gathered over the previous several months, they had failed to contact these groups. We initiated a frantic outreach effort that included radio announcements on the actual morning of the hearing, and telephone calls to religious and community leaders. The members of the advisory committee in attendance were subsequently criticized at the hearing for their lack of effort in informing the community. In fact, most of the activists who had attended the committee meetings over the year did not even attend the public hearing.
Following the disappointment of the first public hearing, the local advisory committee was effectively disbanded for several months. The next meeting in the spring of 1999 saw an almost entirely different set of participants grappling with the same issues. Over the last few months, however, the new representatives from DERM and the Taskforce are taking a stronger role in the outreach process, and have appeared more committed to using the ethnographic research data from this study. Even as the formal technical assistance project comes to an end, I plan to continue to participate in these outreach efforts.
GIS Map of Regional Data
Finally, I developed a site map of the Model City region using ARCview that includes transportation corridors, community organizations, and the locations of the various brownfields in the region (Appendix C). I had originally intended to place incidence data on pediatric health events in the community map as well. Unfortunately, due to patient confidentiality laws I was unable to collect specific individual case data, and so had to compromise with prevalence data for local schools in the region.
I learned in interviews with members of the state department of health that several local schools participate in an annual statewide survey that collects information on the prevalence of pediatric asthma and dermatitis. Pediatric asthma and dermatitis join pediatric solid tumors as three common sentinel health events. These are diseases whose occurrence can provide an early warning for potential health problems, particularly in the area of environmental health (Aldrich and Griffith 1992: 99). In the statewide survey, health information that is collected from participating schools in Model City is combined with similar data from schools in more prosperous neighborhoods to create a county-level prevalence rate that is submitted to the FDOH.
Using the GIS database of the region and data obtained in interviews with the principles from each participating school, I determined which schools had students from communities containing brownfields. Next I compared the prevalence rate for childhood asthma and dermatitis between schools that I had identified as having students from brownfields communities with those that did not. Tthe prevalence rates for childhood asthma and dermatitis are not significantly higher among children from neighborhoods containing brownfields than among those from neighborhoods that did not. Thus, the data failed to disprove the null hypothesis that children exposed to local brownfields had the same risk for asthma and dermatitis as those who were not exposed.
Although it could not be used to develop a geographic incidence survey for pediatric sentinel health events, the GIS database proved useful for determining which students came from high-risk communities. The GIS database also contributed to the participatory risk decision making process in the region. It enabled government agencies to identify and involve local community organizations whose members may wish to get involved in planning the remediation and redevelopment process. It has also allowed community residents an opportunity to see a graphic representation of the proximity of various brownfields as well as organizations and agencies in their area. It has allowed the bureaucrats, the technocrats, the developers, and the public at large an opportunity to see the brownfields remediation and redevelopment process in a new light.
V. Recommendations and Conclusions
A review of the history of the brownfields problem highlights how often environmental legislation is handed down with little or no guidance as to how it should be implemented. This technical assistance project was intended to develop a case study of how the collection and analysis of ethnographic data guided by components of the social marketing framework can fulfill state and federal brownfields requirements regarding public participation. The ethnographic data collected in the first phase of the study consisted of qualitative data on the social structure, behavior patterns, and perceptions of local residents relating to the proposed remediation and redevelopment of local brownfields. These data were extremely useful in conducting a prevalence survey of pediatric sentinel health events in the community, but were only somewhat useful in the development of outreach messages based on social marketing principles.
The nature of the participatory process related to the proposed remediation and redevelopment of local brownfields created several difficulties for the model employed in this case study. The various government agencies interested in the successful creation of a participatory redevelopment strategy in Model City had hired several external consultants in addition to myself. Among these were several social activists who had been employed entirely on the basis of their ethnicity and interest in the issue of environmental risk assessment, not because they belonged to the community affected, nor because they were effective at reaching consensus. They were not in fact representative of the community in any way except ethnicity, and they werent even representative of the diverse ethnic composition of the area.
While these activists were supportive of my ethnographic research in the community as it related to mapping potential avenues of exposure for local residents, they disagreed with my interpretations of that data for outreach messages. These basic differences in interpretation had important ramifications on the success of the outreach strategy implemented for the project. The eventual impact that these activists had on the outreach process demonstrates how notions of race and representation can obscure differences between community residents to create an appearance of homogeneity and unity. In this case, individuals skilled in the use of such concepts were able to claim to articulate community opinions, and thus purport to represent the community, even as community residents were present to speak for themselves.
The results of this case study demonstrated some of the possible complexities associated with eliciting public participation in the redevelopment of brownfields. From these results I can posit several recommendations for future interventions of this type. First, more efforts need to take place to train and partner with local residents in order to foster community-based problem solving abilities. This may mean replacing public hearings as the basic forum for participation with a more active outreach strategy involving on-site visits to the meetings of local organizations. African-American churches have historically played a key role in organizing community support and activism regarding environmental inequities. Not enough was done to include local religious organizations in this outreach program. In this area, the members of the Nation of Islam were already active in brownfields redevelopment and would have made an effective partner in the community. Local Baptist churches are also a strong force that should have been approached.
A second recommendation would be to implement additional elements of the social marketing framework in eliciting resident participation. The outreach committee refused to use a comprehensive social marketing approach. In the end, the outreach committee would not alter the meeting location, forum, or agenda despite the fact that public hearings were perceived by local residents as the least effective strategy for eliciting local participation. Altering the proposed participatory forum would have been an important symbol of local governments willingness to respond to residents goals and concerns.
Another important element of the social marketing approach missing from this outreach strategy is the involvement of specialized creative teams for developing more effective outreach messages. One method for doing so might include the participation of experts from other institutions in the area (in this case Florida International or Miami University) in developing the messages. Finally, some form of feedback from local residents as to the relative effectiveness of the outreach campaign as it takes place is a third important element for inclusion in future efforts. This feedback insures a more productive outreach strategy, and would once again be a symbol of local governments commitment to responding to local concerns.
Finally, the use of ethnographic methods proved effective in collecting data regarding community organization and local site use patterns. This type of information could prove invaluable for risk assessors attempting to develop risk characterizations for the residents of communities adjoining urban brownfields, as well as in developing risk communication strategies. Future brownfields redevelopment projects would benefit from the application of such procedures in order to respond to recent litigation requiring a cumulative and responsive environmental risk assessment process.
Directions for Future Study
The results of this case study suggest several areas for future investigation. The relationship between the ethnographer and professional activists is an area that obviously requires further consideration. The respective roles of ethnographer and community activist are very similar. Both roles center around offering insights into the perceived reality of the members of a community that are otherwise detached from those sponsoring the research. Both roles can make an easy transition into advocate and even spokesperson. Finally, both roles are vulnerable to criticism and refutation that can easily discredit the individuals filling them. On a theoretical level, the similarities between the roles of ethnographer and activist suggest that it should be possible to combine them in a cooperative and productive relationship. On a pragmatic level, the vulnerability of both roles to attack from the other requires that we develop such a relationship.
In this case study the government agencies overseeing the remediation and redevelopment of Model City brownfields adopted two distinctly differing approaches to encouraging resident input in the risk decision making process. One of these approaches was to sponsor the participation of interested third parties from outside the community to intermediate between local residents and agency officials. The model adopted by these professional activists was relatively straightforward; their shared racial heritage with the majority of local residents gave them insights into local concerns and perceptions that the primarily white agency officials could not possess. The second approach sponsored by government officials was the employment of an ethnographer. The model adopted by the ethnographer involved researching how local residents perceived of the remediation and redevelopment strategy planned for brownfields in their community, and allow that ethnographic data to shape the outreach strategy. The different methods adopted by the practitioners of both approaches ultimately realized different, and even opposing, results that led to conflict and the risk of discrediting both approaches in the eyes of the sponsors.
How can ethnographers avoid such conflicts in other brownfields remediation and redevelopment projects? The historic pattern of siting waste producing and storage facilities in low-income and minority communities ensures that other interventions will be impacted by perceptions of oppression and racism. In such situations, agency officials will be once again be confronted by community activists whose goals may differ dramatically from their own. In such cases, future studies could begin with a careful consideration of what the various stakeholders mean by participation. Is this an opportunity for individuals who are potentially affected by an intervention to influence an ongoing project, or is this an opportunity to overcome existing disparities in power and control? The goals of the participatory process according to every stakeholder should be elucidated early in the intervention, and a consensus created as to how the process should be conducted based on those goals. Without a clearly defined understanding of what the agencies hope to gain from participation, motivated but uncoordinated attempts may result in widening the credibility gap between local communities and government agencies.
A second consideration would involve who is the project intended to empower through participation. If, as is possible, no consensus is reached in the first question, the next question should revolve around whose objectives are the most important. A pragmatic perspective suggests that professional activists need to play a role in whatever process is developed, but they must not be allowed to overpower the process of remediating and redeveloping urban brownfields. As this study illustrates, if outsiders are allowed to determine strategy decisions, local residents may be at the least, detached, and at worst, alienated by the outreach process. The ultimate result of this could be the failure to remediate and redevelop a local brownfield in accordance with residents goals or concerns.
The ethnographer must make every effort to work with professional activists without allowing local residents to be frozen out of the process. This may involve facilitating the flow of information directly to community members. There has been some previous work on how anthropologists can contribute to the flow of information from risk assessors to community residents communicating the extent of environmental risks (Yacoob, Brantly and Whiteford 1994). Completing the flow of information from community members to risk assessors during the assessment process could help to ameliorate some of the common frustrations experienced by members of the lay-public while also furnishing environmental risk assessors with valuable qualitative data (Wynne 1980:176). At the same time, the information gained could be used to design a more understandable and socially relevant description of the completed assessment. Anthropologists working in this capacity serve as a kind of Aculture broker,@ facilitating communication between community members and risk assessors (van Willigen 1993: 125). As this technical assistance project demonstrates, this is an extremely complex and difficult undertaking facing a significant number of obstacles, but in my opinion the goal of a truly socially informed and participatory environmental risk decision making process is worth the effort.
In this project I encountered some of the issues confronting anthropologists working to develop a new model of environmental risk assessment and management. Some of these issues have to do with developing a role for ethnographic data in the risk assessment process, while others go to the heart of the utility of anthropological data in empowering a potentially contaminated community. The ultimate decision as to whether or not an anthropologist should become involved in such an endeavor can be influenced by considerations of the shared or disparate goals of the various stakeholders in an attempt to elicit community input. Perhaps the ultimate contribution that this study makes is recognition of the need for a more active and comprehensive outreach strategy in future redevelopment projects.
Ultimately, the theory and methods of anthropology have much to contribute to the development of a new model of environmental risk decision making. It is my hope that this study can contribute to the refinement of such contributions and anticipate continuing to work on this goal in the future.
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