Patch Q&A: Nefertiti DiCosmo of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
She explained why Fridley is getting an EPA Citizens Advisory Group—and what could keep a January meeting from happening.
The announcement that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would create a Citizens Advisory Committee (CAG) for Fridley's polluted Superfund sites came from Nefertiti DiCosmo in the EPA's Chicago Superfund office. Fridley Patch interviewed DiCosmo by email.
Patch: Why is the EPA forming a CAG in Fridley now? What prompted it, and why hasn't there been one in the past (if there hasn't)? A couple citizens met with staff from Minnesota's U.S. senators on Nov. 1. Did that meeting spark the formation of the CAG?
Nefertiti DiCosmo: EPA helps interested members of a community form a Community Advisory Groups or CAGs at the request of the community.* Not all sites or communities will need or want a CAG. In the case of Fridley, members of the community—including State Rep-elect Connie Bernardy—expressed interest in forming a CAG at the City's health fair last August. In response, EPA assigned a community involvement coordinator to facilitate the CAG workshop and Community Involvement Plan.
Patch: How will Fridley's CAG be the same or different from others? (For example, Fridley has multiple Superfund sites, are some CAGs just for one site)
Nefertiti DiCosmo: Fridley's community involvement plan will be a little bit different because it will be community-specific instead of site-specific. The CAG will help EPA share information with the public about the each of the sites and the CAG will provide information to EPA about the community's needs and concerns. This will help maintain effective communication between EPA and the community.
Patch: There are no other CAGs in Minnesota right now. Have there been in the past? How long has EPA had CAGs?
Nefertiti DiCosmo: EPA is not aware of similar CAGS in Minnesota in the past, but can’t confirm that this is the first.
EPA has worked with interested communities to create CAGs for 25 years. In 1986, the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA) amended the Superfund law and made it possible for EPA to support the formation of CAGs.
Patch: Is there an example of a CAG that you think has worked particularly well or has accomplished something, made something happen?
Nefertiti DiCosmo: EPA Region 5 has supported many successful CAGs. A good example is the Waukegan Harbor Citizens Advisory Group in Waukegan, Illinois.
Patch: Have you received any calls or emails yet from people interested in the CAG?
Nefertiti DiCosmo: Yes, I have been contacted by 6 people.
Patch: I think I understand, but why did your email say an informational meeting would happen in January "weather permitting"?
Nefertiti DiCosmo: We are aiming for a date in late January but if there is an unexpected snow storm that prevents EPA from traveling, it may have to be postponed until February.
*DiCosmo clarified her response. As originally published, the sentence began "EPA establishes ..." but DiCosmo said later by email that:
EPA does not create CAGs per se, we assist communities to create CAGs and then recognize them as a community group and work directly with them throughout the Superfund process. EPA is hosting an informational meeting to provide guidance to those who are interested in leading the effort to create a CAG.