A meeting that several area residents and Fridley Mayor Scott Lund called "long overdue" addressing a way to act on Fridley's polluted sites took place Wednesday afternoon, drawing a crowd that filled every seat in the room.
The meeting of the U.S. Enivronmental Protection Agency, Fridley area residents, and concerned community leaders was the first step in forming a Community Advisory Group that addresses Fridley's hazardous waste "Superfund" sites. There are five sites in Fridley that are in various stages of environmental investigation and cleanup.
The group would bring community concerns to the EPA to help the organization make decisions on the sites.
The crowd tightly filled a room at the Fridley Community Center Wednesday afternoon. Another session is set for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in room 109 at the center.
Many residents at the meeting said they'd like to get involved because of cancer and death of community members caused by the environmental problems in Fridley.
Members of the Facebook group Fridley Cancer Cluster were instrumental in getting the EPA's attention in forming a group to address the issue.
Also in attendance were leaders from Fridley Public Schools, Minnesota Department of Health, people who work in the environmental field, Fridley Mayor Scott Lund, and current and former residents of Fridley and Columbia Heights.
More than 40 people attended the first session.
The purpose of the meeting was not to discuss how to clean up the Superfund sites, but rather, to learn how to form a community group of about 15 to 20 people who would take charge in helping the EPA address a solution.
"EPA does not create a group — communities do," said EPA Community Involvement Coordinator for Fridley area Superfund sites Nefertiti DiCosmo. "Our role is to help you form a group."
Superfund is a program operated under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Compensation and Liability Act and carries out long-term removal of solid waste and activities to clean up the polluted sites. The EPA is involved in carrying out solid waste emergency actions to these sites.
The five Superfund sites in Fridley are:
- Boise Cascade/Onan Corp./Medtronics
- FMC Corp. — Fridley Plant
- Fridley Commons Park Well Field
- Kurt Manufacturing Co.
- Naval Industrial Reserve Ordinance Plant (NIROP)
The community group would create awareness and take action in addressing concerns to the EPA and orchestrating environmental cleanup. The EPA's role would be to provide information to the community about the sites.
"Our goal is to make the information available as easily as possible," DiCosmo said. "It's all about open lines of communication and getting information to you easily."
She added the EPA tries to be as open as possible with the public, and would like to create a place online that gives easier access to documents and fact sheets about environmental cleanup.
State Rep. Connie Bernardy, told Minnesota Public Radio in November 2012 that "it seemed like there was a lot of frustration in our community and that people wanted information, and this is a vehicle in which to help the community have a voice."
The group would serve as a central point of contact for sharing information between the EPA and the community. It would also become a forum to discuss community needs related to the Superfund cleanup.
"People trust those in their community," DiCosmo said, adding that the group can report the community's concerns anonymously. "That way, people's concerns and fears are really addressed. And that results in better decisions (by the EPA)."
Those interested in joining the group should fill out an application. Members will be chosen by a steering committee of local community leaders based on information from applications. The EPA discourages elected officials from being part of the group since it affects grants and funding.
Members will be expected to attend regular meetings, participate in subcommittees, read materials between meetings, and help communicate with neighbors and others in the community.
For more information about forming the group, contact DiCosmo at 312-886-6148 or 800-621-8431 ext. 66148.