Study sites and community interview process
Two sites were selected for this project: Wright Chemical Corp. in Riegelwood, Columbus County, and Horton Iron & Metal Co. in Wilmington, New Hanover County, North Carolina. These sites were added to the National Priorities List (NPL) in 2011 after the discovery of contaminants on the sites that could affect human or environmental health.
Both sites were phosphate fertilizer manufacturing facilities that also housed lead chamber sulfuric acid plants. Wright Chemical Corp. began operations in the late 1800s; Horton Iron & Metal Corp. began operations in the early 1900s. Lead-lined chambers were used at the sites to produce sulfuric acid, an important chemical in the production of phosphate fertilizers.
Community interview process
The project partners, UNC RTC and NC DPH, used the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) community engagement guidance to design interview guides and conduct at total of 36 interviews near the sites. Researchers sought participation from various stakeholders including community leaders, government officials, healthcare professionals, industry representatives, and residents near the sites.
Interview respondents were asked to describe what they felt were the major issues affecting the community, followed by questions about the local environment and community health. By starting with general questions about the community, researchers hoped to learn from residents whether information about the NPL sites had reached the community.
After discussing general community concerns, researchers asked interview respondents whether they had heard of the site and if so, to describe what they had heard. Researchers next explained the NPL designation and asked the respondent to describe their reactions, including possible impacts to environment, health, and the local economy. Respondents were also asked about the types of information they would like to receive and the best methods for sharing that information with the community.