DTSC’s Public Participation Philosophy
DTSC managers and staff members believe the best decisions are made with a fully informed and involved public. Our approach is unique in that we involve the affected or interested communities on the community’s terms.
Our outreach is as informal as possible, conducted at times and locations that are convenient to the community, and in appropriate languages. We use information that is understandable and accessible to the public. Also, our process emphasizes early and continuing public involvement throughout the process.
Accountability is important. DTSC staff and managers regularly participate in outreach efforts to ensure there is an understanding of community issues at all levels of the department.
During the past several years, DTSC has been a leader in implementing environmental justice principles at the project level, conducting project-specific community assessments to determine the information needs. These assessments typically result in DTSC providing translation and interpretation services, placing information in publications that address the different cultures within a community, and providing outreach at times and places that fit the cultural makeup of the community.
In addition, at each “listed” site, a Community Advisory Group (CAG) may be established by the affected community to review any response action and comment on the response action to be conducted in that community. DTSC shall assist in the formation of a CAG when 50 or more affected residents sign a petition or the legislative body for a community adopts a resolution.
Community Engagement Enhancement and Modernization Project
DTSC contracted with the UC Davis Extension Collaboration Center to produce a set of recommendations to enhance and modernize our public outreach and engagement strategies with interested and impacted communities. The recommendations were based on input from a diverse group of stakeholders, many of whom have been previously engaged in DTSC public participation activities.
The UC Davis Extension Collaboration Center interviewed community members and stakeholders, convened small groups, and hosted public forums to gather ideas and input from the public in support of this effort. The recommendations gathered have been compiled into a report which is available for public review entitled “Enhancing and Modernizing Public Outreach & Engagement Strategies at the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.”
DTSC has recognized and addressed Environmental Justice over the years by encouraging community members to participate in the decision-making process. The focus has been on addressing cultural and community needs.
Several State and Federal laws and regulations provide a legal foundation for DTSC’s cleanup and permitting work. The processes for accomplishing these goals include public involvement components. The following are “guidebooks” that outline how and where members of the public can become involved in the decision-making process.
- Removal Action Workplan Process Cleanup actions called Removal Action Workplans (RAWs) allow for the cleanup of hazardous waste at sites where large and expensive cleanups may not be required. Removal actions generally occur on projects where there is only one contaminant, when the cleanup timeframe is relatively short, and where the cost is under $1 million. Removal actions may sometimes be an interim step in the cleanup process.
- Remedial Action Plan Cleanup actions called Remedial Action Plans (RAPs), provide for the cleanup of hazardous waste on sites where the cost exceeds $1 million, and when the timeline for cleanup can extend for a long period of time. These projects may involve extensive removals of contamination or groundwater cleanup. Remedial actions are usually the final action of a cleanup process.
Public notices are an important part of the Public Participation process. Typically required by statute, public notices serve as a formal notification to the public of a department activity such as a comment period on a pending decision.
Our calendar allows you to review DTSC’s activities at a glance. The calendar identifies public meetings, hearings, comment periods and events that are of interest to the public.
Questions on the Risk Assessment Process
At sites involving remedial action, human health risk assessment is used to determine the nature and extent of remedial activities, such as establishing preliminary cleanup goals. It involves examining issues related to specific contaminants and evaluating the toxicity parameters. These evaluations are based on sound scientific knowledge and fact, and comply with DTSC and U.S. EPA risk assessment guidance and policy.