Hirschhorn Key Player in Finding Relief For Residents Near Contamination

    From deciphering a complicated chemical analysis to navigating the federal bureaucracy, consultant Joel Hirschhorn has been a key player in the effort to find relief for Pensacola residents living near two contaminated industrial sites, said the leader of a citizens environmental advocacy group.

    "He's been extremely helpful," said Margaret Williams, president of Citizens Against Toxic Exposure. "I don't think we would have made any progress without him."

    Hirschhorn is a nationally recognized technical adviser whose role is to help communities cope with what can be a mind-numbing process of dealing with the Environmental Protection Agency's toxic waste Superfund cleanup program.

    Ironically, Hirschhorn is paid through a federal grant from the very agency he is often called on to challenge. Hirschhorn often Questions and prods EPA officials on their findings and decisions.

    For government environmental program managers, he can be a thorn in the side.

    To groups like Pensacola's Citizens Against Toxic Exposure, he can be a lifeline.

    Hirschhorn isn't the only professional who specializes in this field, but he is one of the most widely known. As a staffer at Congress' Office of Technology Assessment during the early 1980s, Hirschhorn was involved in the birth of the Superfund program, including the provision creating technical assistance grants that he now benefits from.

    Community groups can apply for the $ 50,000 grants for each Superfund site they represent.

    Over the past three years, Citizens Against Toxic Exposure has spent down the first $50,000 grant it received for the Agrico chemical plant Superfund site off Palafox Highway, Williams said.

    The city of Pensacola provided a $ 12,000 match, she added.

    Most of the money has gone to Hirschhorn for his services and to reimburse him for travel and expenses.

    The environmental group received a second $ 50,000 grant for the Escambia Treating Company site and plans to use the funds to continue paying Hirschhorn for his services, Williams said.

Copyright 1996 Gannett Company, Inc.
January 19, 1996, Friday
BYLINE: LARRY WHEELER; Gannett News Service
LOAD-DATE: January 22, 1996