EPA Community Involvement Coordinator

Community Involvement + Superfund+ An Environmental Delegation from Delhi

By Melissa Dimas

New York City receives millions of visitors every year.  They come to see the Statue of Liberty, the Great White Way and the towering skyscrapers, but I’d like to think, and maybe it’s because I live here, that the people who reside in New York City and the communities they form are reason enough to visit New York City.

Last week, a delegation from India’s Ministry of Environment and Forest in Delhi, as well as the Pollution Control Board in West Bengal and Kolkata visited EPA Region 2 to tour three of our Superfund sites and the communities that surround them. In India, they are currently designing all aspects of their Superfund program and working on four pilot projects funded by the World Bank. During their tour, we highlighted the important role communities play in EPA’s Superfund process and we wanted the delegation to meet some of the New York City superfund community members.  At Newtown Creek, we met with Christine an active member of the community advisory group (CAG), at the Passaic River we met Darryl, a community member working on the actual clean up who received his job through EPA’s superfund job training initiative (SJTI), and at the Gowanus Canal we met Katia, a resident and blogger that helps keep the community informed about all things Gowanus.

The delegation was surprised to see how much EPA Region 2 interacts with the community throughout the Superfund process.  They were surprised that EPA’s cleanup process doesn’t just focus on removing contaminants, but also insures the impacted community has a voice in the process.  EPA’s Community Involvement Coordinators Wanda Ayala, David Kluesner, and Natalie Loney work hard to make sure the community is informed and the community’s voice is heard.  Working with amazing community members like Christine, Darryl, and Katia makes working in New York City as a Community Involvement Coordinator that much more satisfying.

So wherever you live, New York City, Delhi, or Djibouti think about how you participate in your community and how you can play an important role in bettering your community.

About the Author: Melissa Dimas is the International Affairs Program Manager in Region 2. She works with environmental ministries in Latin America to increase public participation and access to environmental information. Melissa joined EPA in 2006. Prior to working at EPA, she received a Masters of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy from Columbia University and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the beautiful country of El Salvador.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Door to Door Visit

By Cecilia Echols

Sometimes you just can’t guess what might be behind that closed door.

My work as a Community Involvement Coordinator (CIC) requires me to be a liaison between the agency and the community.  And, as a CIC, in the New York Metropolitan area, I have met people of every race, class and religion; every lifestyle imaginable; every ethnic group and every demographic. I get to explain to all of them how the agency plans to clean up a hazardous waste site in their community.  That’s very gratifying to me.

One of my specialties is conducting door to door visits.  These visits may occur during the morning, the afternoon or at night.  But when I’m visiting apartments and coops, big houses and modest houses, one thing I never do is enter a home alone; it’s always a team effort. 

(From left) CIC Wanda Ayala and Greening the Apple's own Sophia Kelley caught in action during a home visit.

Spending time with owners and tenants is at the core of our work. These visits are often needed to “gain access,” to permit us to come into a home or yard to sample their drinking water from an indoor/ outdoor pipe, to test their indoor air or the air beneath their home or to test the soil in their yard. 

While I’ve met many different types of people and families, I’ve also been confronted with some very unusual circumstances. Frankly, some of the more unusual living conditions want to make you “run for the hills.” Not too long ago, I visited some homes in one of the boroughs and got quite a shock.

While most of the homes in this particular neighborhood were immaculate, one residence was occupied by a “hoarder.”  It actually scared me. I remember thinking, “Is something or someone going to jump out of this clutter and do me some harm?” This home smelled horrible and was filled with what I can only describe as garbage. We had to navigate around piles of trash to reach the resident to have a conversation. More

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.