Superfund Research Program
Community Engagement Core
Project Leader: Margaret A. Reams
Co-Investigator: Jennifer Richmond-Bryant (North Carolina State University)
Grant Number: P42ES013648
Funding Period: 2011-2025
Project Summary (2020-2025)
Roughly 53 million people live within three miles of a Superfund remediation site. Research on environmental contaminants from these sites indicates that environmentally persistent free radical (EPFR) concentrations range to an order of magnitude in concentration above those in surrounding uncontaminated areas. These EPFRs have been shown to form during thermal treatment (TT) of Superfund sites and other hazardous wastes. Louisiana State University Superfund Research Program (LSU SRP) data demonstrate that EPFRs adversely impact cardiovascular, respiratory, and metabolic health. The overall goal of the Community Engagement Core (CEC) is to build an innovative and responsive bidirectional community-engagement program to develop solutions to reduce exposure and enhance the health and safety of communities near Superfund sites and other sites where hazardous materials undergo TT. The CEC directly addresses SRP Mandate #4 (i.e., methods to reduce the amount and toxicity of hazardous substances). In addition to a new environmental health literacy project, the CEC has designed the LSU Clean Air Research Engagement for Superfund Communities (LaCARES). It will work with two communities: Colfax, Louisiana, home to a TT facility for Superfund and other hazardous wastes, and the Superfund community of Alsen, Louisiana, where TT of hazardous wastes was conducted. Residents of these communities also face environmental justice (EJ) challenges. The CEC is developing a community-based participatory research (CBPR) program in close collaboration with the "Hazardous Waste Thermal Treatment and Community Exposure to Environmentally Persistent Free Radicals" and "Activation, Sensing, and Prevention of Formation EPFRs in Thermal Treatment of Superfund Wastes" projects. The CEC, SRP researchers, and trainees are working to increase understanding of EPFRs and develop prevention/intervention strategies in partnership with the communities. They are developing a new interactive air-quality website and mobile phone app (LouiSA — Louisiana State University Superfund Research Center Air Quality). Through this app, residents will be able to record, upload, and share their observations concerning air quality, odors, and physical symptoms they experience. The residents' observations will be reported by the app, which will eventually incorporate measurements from the monitors deployed in the "Hazardous Waste Thermal Treatment and Community Exposure to Environmentally Persistent Free Radicals" project. The community-based monitoring (consisting of input from residents about where to deploy air monitors and uploading of results and individual observations of air quality) will serve to validate smaller, inexpensive monitoring kits being developed by the "Activation, Sensing, and Prevention of Formation EPFRs in Thermal Treatment of Superfund Wastes" project to be deployed by the residents through the CEC . The Core is working collaboratively with residents to identify actions they can take to mitigate exposure risks, such as limiting outdoor activities, running air conditioners, and including more antioxidant nutrients in their diets. Finally, the CEC is helping residents prepare comments for meetings with regulators so they can participate more effectively in collective decisions about the treatment of hazardous materials in their communities. These collaborative activities — selecting monitoring locations, recording observations, and selecting mitigation strategies — help enhance the health resilience of these communities and can be applied to other EJ localities.