skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: ENHANCING STAKEHOLDER ACCEPTANCE OF BIOREMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES

Abstract

This project inquired into the judgments and beliefs of people living near DOE reservations and facilities at Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Hanford, Washington; and Los Alamos, Tennessee about bioremediation of subsurface contamination. The purpose of the investigation was to identify strategies based on these judgments and beliefs for enhancing public support of bioremediation. Several methods were used to collect and analyze data including content analysis of transcripts of face-to-face personal interviews, factor analysis of subjective perspectives using Q methodology, and statistical analysis of results from a large-sample randomized telephone survey. Content analysis of interview transcripts identified themes about public perceptions and constructions of contamination risk, risk management, and risk managers. This analysis revealed that those who have no employment relationship at the sites and are not engaged in technical professions are most concerned about contamination risks. We also found that most interviewees are unfamiliar with subsurface contamination risks and how they can be reduced, believe they have little control over exposure, are frustrated with the lack of progress in remediation, are concerned about a lack of commitment of DOE to full remediation, and distrust site managers to act in the public interest. Concern is also expressed over frequent site management turnover,more » excessive secrecy, ineffective and biased communication, perceived attempts to talk the public into accepting risk, and apparent lack of concern about community welfare. In the telephone survey, we asked respondents who were aware of site contamination about their perceptions of risk from exposure to subsurface contamination. Response analysis revealed that most people believe that they are at significant risk from subsurface contamination but they acknowledge that more education is needed to calibrate risk perceptions against scientific risk assessments. Most rate their personal control over exposure as low. Slightly more than half believe that risk reduction should be balanced against cost. We also found that distrust of DOE and its contractors exists, primarily due to the perception that site managers do not share public values; hence, the public is generally unwilling to defer to DOE in its decision-making. The concomitant belief of inefficacy confounds distrust by generating frustration that DOE does not care. Moreover, the public is split with respect to trust of each other, primarily because of the belief that citizens lack technical competence. With respect to bioremediation support, we found that more than 40% of the public has no opinion. However, of those who do, 3 of 4 are favorably disposed – particularly among those who believe that risk is lower and who are more trusting of site management. We presented survey respondents with four alternative participation strategies based on the results of the Q analysis and asked their judgments of each. The public prefers strategies that shifts power to them. The least empowered strategy (feedback) was supported by 46%; support grew as public power increased, reaching 66% support for independently facilitated deliberation. More DOE distrust generates more support for high power strategies. We offer the following recommendations to enhance public acceptance. First, and perhaps most importantly, site managers should pursue robust trust-building efforts to gain public confidence in DOE risk management that meets public expectations. Public trust decreases risk perception, which increases public willingness to defer to site managers’ discretion in decision-making, which in turn increases public acceptance of the decisions that result. Second, site managers should address public concerns about bioremediation such as its effectiveness in reducing risk, performance compared to other remediation alternatives, costs compared against benefits, time required to start and complete remediation, level of risk that is currently posed by contamination, and scope of application. Third, more should be done to involve the public in bioremediation decision-making. We recommend a two-stage process: independent facilitated deliberation to build trust and address concerns about the motives and competence of site managers, followed by consultation to maintain that trust. Both stages should be inclusive, transparent, and respectful. Participation objectives and roles of participants should be well specified by the participants. A record of discussion should be published that codifies the concerns raised and how they were addressed, which will facilitate progress by averting the need to reconsider the same issues repeatedly. It is most important that the processes convince the public that its participation influences decision outcomes and that participants genuinely (informed and voluntarily) consent to risk exposure.« less

Authors:
; ;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Iowa State University, Ames, IA; Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC)
OSTI Identifier:
951591
Report Number(s):
DOE/ER/63798-1
TRN: US1000251
DOE Contract Number:  
FG02-04ER63798
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; 12 MANAGEMENT OF RADIOACTIVE AND NON-RADIOACTIVE WASTES FROM NUCLEAR FACILITIES; 07 ISOTOPE AND RADIATION SOURCES; BIOREMEDIATION; CHEMICAL ANALYSIS; CONTAMINATION; CONTRACTORS; DECISION MAKING; EDUCATION; EMPLOYMENT; FEEDBACK; MANAGEMENT; PERFORMANCE; RECOMMENDATIONS; RISK ASSESSMENT; subsurface contamination; risk perception; bioremediation; trust; participation; decision-making

Citation Formats

Focht, Will, Albright, Matt, and Anex, Robert P., Jr., ed. ENHANCING STAKEHOLDER ACCEPTANCE OF BIOREMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES. United States: N. p., 2009. Web. doi:10.2172/951591.
Focht, Will, Albright, Matt, & Anex, Robert P., Jr., ed. ENHANCING STAKEHOLDER ACCEPTANCE OF BIOREMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES. United States. doi:10.2172/951591.
Focht, Will, Albright, Matt, and Anex, Robert P., Jr., ed. Tue . "ENHANCING STAKEHOLDER ACCEPTANCE OF BIOREMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES". United States. doi:10.2172/951591. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/951591.
@article{osti_951591,
title = {ENHANCING STAKEHOLDER ACCEPTANCE OF BIOREMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES},
author = {Focht, Will and Albright, Matt and Anex, Robert P., Jr., ed.},
abstractNote = {This project inquired into the judgments and beliefs of people living near DOE reservations and facilities at Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Hanford, Washington; and Los Alamos, Tennessee about bioremediation of subsurface contamination. The purpose of the investigation was to identify strategies based on these judgments and beliefs for enhancing public support of bioremediation. Several methods were used to collect and analyze data including content analysis of transcripts of face-to-face personal interviews, factor analysis of subjective perspectives using Q methodology, and statistical analysis of results from a large-sample randomized telephone survey. Content analysis of interview transcripts identified themes about public perceptions and constructions of contamination risk, risk management, and risk managers. This analysis revealed that those who have no employment relationship at the sites and are not engaged in technical professions are most concerned about contamination risks. We also found that most interviewees are unfamiliar with subsurface contamination risks and how they can be reduced, believe they have little control over exposure, are frustrated with the lack of progress in remediation, are concerned about a lack of commitment of DOE to full remediation, and distrust site managers to act in the public interest. Concern is also expressed over frequent site management turnover, excessive secrecy, ineffective and biased communication, perceived attempts to talk the public into accepting risk, and apparent lack of concern about community welfare. In the telephone survey, we asked respondents who were aware of site contamination about their perceptions of risk from exposure to subsurface contamination. Response analysis revealed that most people believe that they are at significant risk from subsurface contamination but they acknowledge that more education is needed to calibrate risk perceptions against scientific risk assessments. Most rate their personal control over exposure as low. Slightly more than half believe that risk reduction should be balanced against cost. We also found that distrust of DOE and its contractors exists, primarily due to the perception that site managers do not share public values; hence, the public is generally unwilling to defer to DOE in its decision-making. The concomitant belief of inefficacy confounds distrust by generating frustration that DOE does not care. Moreover, the public is split with respect to trust of each other, primarily because of the belief that citizens lack technical competence. With respect to bioremediation support, we found that more than 40% of the public has no opinion. However, of those who do, 3 of 4 are favorably disposed – particularly among those who believe that risk is lower and who are more trusting of site management. We presented survey respondents with four alternative participation strategies based on the results of the Q analysis and asked their judgments of each. The public prefers strategies that shifts power to them. The least empowered strategy (feedback) was supported by 46%; support grew as public power increased, reaching 66% support for independently facilitated deliberation. More DOE distrust generates more support for high power strategies. We offer the following recommendations to enhance public acceptance. First, and perhaps most importantly, site managers should pursue robust trust-building efforts to gain public confidence in DOE risk management that meets public expectations. Public trust decreases risk perception, which increases public willingness to defer to site managers’ discretion in decision-making, which in turn increases public acceptance of the decisions that result. Second, site managers should address public concerns about bioremediation such as its effectiveness in reducing risk, performance compared to other remediation alternatives, costs compared against benefits, time required to start and complete remediation, level of risk that is currently posed by contamination, and scope of application. Third, more should be done to involve the public in bioremediation decision-making. We recommend a two-stage process: independent facilitated deliberation to build trust and address concerns about the motives and competence of site managers, followed by consultation to maintain that trust. Both stages should be inclusive, transparent, and respectful. Participation objectives and roles of participants should be well specified by the participants. A record of discussion should be published that codifies the concerns raised and how they were addressed, which will facilitate progress by averting the need to reconsider the same issues repeatedly. It is most important that the processes convince the public that its participation influences decision outcomes and that participants genuinely (informed and voluntarily) consent to risk exposure.},
doi = {10.2172/951591},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {2009},
month = {4}
}