Crisis Communications/Issue Management
Ongoing environmental monitoring at the former Redfield Rifle Scope Manufacturing facility in southeast Denver showed that groundwater contaminated with cleaning solvents was flowing from the plant property into the homes of adjacent neighbors. Brown Shoe Company (Brown), the current property owner, initiated indoor air tests that indicated the presence of chemical vapors from the affected groundwater in select homes. A comprehensive remediation program was implemented in the surrounding neighborhood involving nearly 700 homes with indoor air ventilation systems installed in 400. The issue culminated in a class-action lawsuit.
Sigler Communications' Role
Brown retained Sigler Communications to develop and implement a proactive communications strategy and community relations program to keep residents of the adjacent neighborhoods and other key audiences informed about groundwater contamination, indoor air sampling and cleanup activities underway. The goal of the program was to generate productive two-way communications between the community and Brown that would allow technical work to progress in a timely and cost effective manner. We have served as the daily interface for neighbors, elected officials, and news media for 18 years.
We conducted one-on-one interviews with community members in conjunction with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to serve as the foundation for a comprehensive community relations plan. We briefed elected officials and leaders of two neighborhood homeowners’ associations at various stages of the environmental investigation and cleanup, and maintained a hotline and website (www.redfieldsite.org) to provide up-to-date information about related activities. Throughout the program, our team planned and conducted 30 public/community meetings and briefings, managed interface with news media, served as the company’s local representative and fielded more than 5,000 phone calls from residents/neighbors and other concerned stakeholders.
We also were responsible for conceptualizing, drafting and designing all written materials including letters, fact sheets, newsletter articles and letters to neighbors. We consulted with a physician/toxicologist to address residents’ health questions and concerns and to develop health-related posters and handouts. We also devised a real estate/property value communications strategy, tracked real estate transactions using a broker and met with Realtors and neighbors about property values and transactions.
Community newsletter to keep neighbors updated
Health information translated into layman’s language
Brown successfully completed its remediation efforts in the homes and continues to address on-site cleanup. The communications efforts helped the company meet and surpass its regulatory communications requirements. It also played a major role in a jury verdict rendered of approximately $1 million for non-economic damages versus the $450 million requested by the plaintiffs. Through proactive community relations, the neighborhoods surrounding the Redfield site were not stigmatized as a “contamination zone” and homes continue to sell at or above asking prices in timeframes comparable to similar neighborhoods.