Year of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Department or School/College
Environmental Studies Program
Beth Covitt, David Shively
Anaconda Smelter Superfund, Opportunity Montana, procedural justice, public participation, well water safety
University of Montana
Opportunity, Montana is a small town within the 300 square mile Anaconda Smelter Superfund site in Western Montana. Waste from 100 years of ore processing has impacted the area. Arsenic exceeds Montana drinking water standards within the aquifer system feeding residential wells of Opportunity, causing resident concern about current and future safety of drinking water. The project described in this paper engages with this context from an environmental justice (EJ) perspective that views meaningful participation of affected communities as integral for sound and democratic decisions about environmental risks. Because Opportunity residents are left out of important decision making processes regarding local groundwater remediation, they experience procedural injustice, an aspect of EJ calling for meaningful participation. The project aims to reduce barriers to meaningful participation by improving residents’ abilities to access and use scientific information and explanations for local groundwater contamination, a need identified through previous literature and resident comments. Science education, risk communication, and science communication literature, along with Superfund site studies, provided general insights about relevant groundwater information and concepts as well as effective ways of communicating this technical information to residents. I used a three-step process to further specify and address resident needs and concerns regarding groundwater contamination. First, I conducted focus group interviews with ten Opportunity residents in the spring of 2012. Qualitative analysis of these interviews identified needs regarding site data and relevant groundwater concepts. Secondly, this analysis, along with literature, informed creation of a public presentation about groundwater contamination in the Opportunity area, offered to receive feedback from residents for development of an informational booklet. I received an unsatisfactory amount of feedback from this step. Thirdly, I adapted presentation material with the received feedback and a more rigorous application of insights from literature into a 24-page informational booklet, containing images designed for the project. With support of other nonprofits conducting outreach to Superfund communities, I intend to publish and distribute the booklet as a resource for Opportunity residents seeking better and more useful information to address concerns with drinking water.
Sorovacu, Yvonne Emily, "Putting Scientific Information into the Service of Environmental Justice for Residents Facing Groundwater Contamination" (2013). Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. 788.
© Copyright 2013 Yvonne Emily Sorovacu