Environmental Conflict Resolution Through the Use of a Citizen Advisory Group

Publication Date


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Health Science, Environmental Health


Community and Environmental Health

Major Advisor

Gary Shook


James T. Girvan


Conrad Colby


Environmental regulatory agencies often face difficult challenges in trying to resolve conflicts involving populations impacted by neighboring facility operations. Problems are particularly complex when issues involve nuisance conditions or aesthetics because the insult is subjective and difficult to quantify. Often, there are no clear regulatory paths forward to resolve concerns.

A food processing plant in southwest Idaho obtained the necessary state and county permits to utilize a wastewater land application process to treat plant effluent. Private property owners registered numerous complaints concerning odors associated with system operations. The Idaho Division of Environmental Quality (IDEQ) investigated those complaints and held public meetings to gather input.

A citizen advisory group was established to work with the agency in trying to resolve the concerns. Meetings were held to facilitate dialogue geared towards problem solving. The company undertook steps to try and improve the situation. After a period of time, many of the advisory group members felt that progress had been made and were no longer demanding that the facility be shut down. The state regulatory agency received a new waste water land application permit from the facility for review and processing.

The use of a citizen advisory group involving stakeholders to resolve environmental conflicts can be a productive exercise if managed well. More importantly, it can lead to a long term solution that will minimize future resource requirements as well as provide a sense of ownership in an effective outcome. The problem was to review how the process through which the subject citizen advisory group evolved and attempt to identify discreet stages that the group passed through during the attempts at environmental conflict resolution.

The subject study demonstrated the efficacy of using this approach to resolve environmental conflict. Changes in the attitudes and perceptions of groups members were observed during the course of the interactions. Certain elements of those changes are consistent with the Transtheoretical Model otherwise know as Stages of Change Theory. The data were insufficient, however, to allow identification of the discreet stages described in the model.

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