Year of Publication

2013

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Communication and Information

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Dr. Chike Anyaegbunam

Abstract

This case study evaluates government communication practices at Superfund sites. I describe agency communication practices in Superfund communities, paying particular attention to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's

Seven Cardinal Rules of Risk Communication and its role as a model for federal agencies engaged at these sites. Situating the study within a theoretical milieu that includes sensemaking and symbolic interactionism, I examine whether current practices deepen divisions among stakeholders, reducing the possibility for communicative convergence.

I implement textual analysis and narrative inquiry to examine written and spoken communication about the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant National Priorities List Superfund site. Through crystallized analysis of media coverage, public comments, focus group transcripts, and local blogs, I address the following research questions:

RQ1: How does the enactment of accepted agency risk communication practices affect relationships among stakeholders, specifically:

• how do stakeholders (including federal agency personnel) characterize past and present agency risk communication practices, and

• how do stakeholders (including federal agency personnel) characterize each other in relation to these communicative practices?

RQ2: What are the related implications for improving agency risk communication approaches?

The study concludes with recommendations for improving existing agency risk communication guidelines, as well as the creation of a new communication model to promote convergent communication at Superfund sites.