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The Door to Door Visit

2012 February 7

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.

Fortunately, these experiences are few and far between, but as a CIC you always have to be cautious. You never know what to expect. The living conditions for some people are just so radically different from your own.

Regardless of my feelings, my job is to explain our work and allay the fears of residents as we test and analyze.

I love the work that I do as a CIC and I always try to be pleasant regardless of conditions. I’m proud of our work and my role in communicating that work – even if the room I’m standing in makes me squeamish. 

About the Author: For more than 20 years, Cecilia has worked on some of the most challenging Superfund sites in New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. She is a long-time EPA employee and a resident of Brooklyn. 

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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4 Responses leave one →
  1. Rachel permalink
    February 8, 2012

    I’d love to hear some more dirt on this one. Going door to door must be exciting and at times…well, scary!

  2. Karen permalink
    February 9, 2012

    I applaud the CICs in their work, sometimes working under hostile situations. When your serving a community which has been affected with serious chemicals and pollutants in their land and water, which can cause health problems, it’s takes a brave soul to do this kind of work… Again, I applaud ALL CICs in Region 2 for their dedication and hard work in keeping our communities informed.

  3. Karyl permalink
    February 10, 2012

    Wow! You have a lot of courage, or maybe its just that you trust God. I’d rely on God because when you’re walking into the unknown I think He is all you have to depend on. It seems that we always see the worst the world has to offer and very little on the selfless attempts to make the world we live in a better/safer environment. Kudos to you for being part of a team that looks out for the wellfare of so many. My prayers will go with you as you walk into the unknown. A JOB WELL DONE!!!!!!

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