The importance of risk communication in the successful design and implementation of a remedy at a former MGP site
J.R. Ash and M.V. Leone

Effective communication has become the key element of successful remediation projects at former
MGP sites, often having greater influence than the science of risk calculations or innovative remedial
technologies. In the case of former MGP sites that are now located in residential areas or used as
schools or other public institutions, effective risk communication may be the key to a successful
clean-up and redevelopment of the properties. Uncertainty, fear, and distrust can cause people to
ignore experts, disregard scientific information, and demand responses from responsible parties that
overcompensate for the actual risks posed by a contaminated site. Residents appreciate straight
talk, access to all available information, and a role in the process. Many of us have spent decades
working in the environmental field and, as a result, underestimate the complexity of our work and the
language we use. The processes and calculations we use are not easily communicated to nontechnical
stakeholders in written reports or several public meetings. As a result, we often have to rely
on trust, which takes extensive effort to build, and can be lost very quickly and inadvertently. In this
paper we describe some of the techniques we have used successfully on remediation projects over
the past several years, as well as some lessons learned.

Key words: public relations, redevelopment, risk communication

Land Contamination & Reclamation, 14 (2), 309-313

DOI 10.2462/09670513.727

© 2007 EPP Publications Ltd

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Article code 727