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Vermont Citizen and Organizations Recognized by EPA for Environmental Achievements

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David Deegan (
(617) 918-1017

BOSTON – One individual and two organizations in Vermont were recognized today at the 2018 Environmental Merit Awards ceremony of the US Environmental Protection Agency's New England regional office. These environmental leaders were among 28 recipients across New England honored for their work to protect New England's environment.

Dr. William Howland of Isle la Motte was recognized with a lifetime award for his many years of service to the health and environment of the state. The Town of Hardwick and the Onion River Cooperative in Burlington were recognized for their contributions to the environment.

"New England is rich with individuals, businesses, and organizations that exhibit their strong commitment to local communities and to a clean and healthful environment. EPA is very proud to recognize these meaningful accomplishments," said EPA New England Regional Administrator Alexandra Dunn.

EPA New England each year recognizes individuals and groups in the six New England states whose are distinguished by their work to protect or improve the region's environment. The merit awards, given since 1970, honor individuals and groups who have shown ingenuity and commitment. The Environmental Merit Awards, given for work or actions done in the prior year, are awarded in the categories of individual; business (including professional organizations); local, state or federal government; and environmental, community, academia or nonprofit organization. Also, each year EPA presents lifetime achievement awards for individuals.

The 2018 Merit Award Winners from Vermont were:

Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. William Howland, Isle la Motte
William Howland's lifetime spent working on environmental issues has led to lasting results in the Lake Champlain Basin, as well as across New England and our polar regions. In his positions as program director of the Lake Champlain Basin Program, professor at the University of Vermont and Middlebury College, and director of Audubon Vermont, Howland initiated programs and promoted environmental awareness. He effectively communicated with representatives from different jurisdictions and agencies on the importance of water quality, invasive species management, cultural heritage, and environmental conservation.

Throughout his nearly 20-year career with the Lake Champlain program, from which he recently retired, Howland furthered the vision of a clean lake, and advanced legislation supporting the lake. Before joining this program, as executive director of Audubon Vermont, he supported wildlife protection and land conservation initiatives. As director of the Northern Studies Program at Middlebury College, he promoted a better understanding of fragile arctic and subarctic regions. As part of the faculty of both Middlebury and the University of Vermont, he educated the next generation of environmentalists.

Lake Champlain would be different today if Howland had not been its advocate. His efforts to forge cooperative relationships set the stage for ongoing efforts to improve its health. Howland supported critical research and monitoring that is essential to long-term management decisions for the Basin. His program supported more than 800 grants to municipalities and local watershed organizations. These organizations continue to promote awareness of lake issues. Howland's legacy can be seen in enduring programs that protect water quality, help control invasive species, and promote cultural heritage programming. His legacy at Audubon was to create lasting protections for the fragile alpine ecosystems on top of the Green Mountains. Lastly, many of the students Howland taught now are in the field or themselves teaching, promoting stewardship for ecosystems and natural resources.


Town of Hardwick
Aging infrastructure contributes to instability and hurts the environment. Water quality suffers when there is no investment in infrastructure. Hardwick's innovative approach to improving water quality at the same time has protected its infrastructure. In 2011, the town had significant issues with its water distribution. A fire led the state to work with Hardwick on a long-range improvement plan and to inventory its drinking water infrastructure. The town evaluated the condition of its system and ranked the risks to its infrastructure, which helped it set priorities for a capital improvements plan. The improvements cut water loss in half without raising rates. The town has set money aside for a rainy-day fund that can double as loan collateral. It has developed relationships with the state and other partners, leading to co-owned infrastructure for stormwater management. It also has collaborated with other towns and the state to get resources in a cost-efficient manner. Hardwick sets an example of a town using resources wisely to secure its infrastructure and improve water quality. Continuing to innovate, it is facing the need for new industrial parks and the town is planning ways to be sure it takes into account more stormwater and wastewater in long-term plans to reduce pollution.


Onion River Cooperative, Burlington
John Tashiro, Pat Burns

Onion River Cooperative opened the City Market South End in 2017, transforming a former Brownfields site into an environmentally-friendly supermarket. The project was led by John Tashiro, general manager, and J Patrick Burns, expansion project manager. This member-owned cooperative is dedicated to supporting the local economy and strengthening the local food system. The Co-op opened City Market community food store in downtown Burlington 15 years ago. In 2015, Co-op leaders found a 4.5-acre vacant industrial property in South End. Its asbestos, lead, petroleum, and volatile organic compounds needed to be cleaned before the property could be used for a second market. With support from the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission and state Brownfields programs, the $13 million, 23,000-square-foot facility was opened in November with a teaching kitchen, community space, and Co-op offices. Besides providing healthy food and cleaning a contaminated property, City Market South End is pedestrian-friendly, and has a covered bicycle parking area. The refrigeration system uses a fraction of the energy typical in grocery stores, and solar tubes, LED lighting, and high-efficiency blowers and fans also minimize electricity usage. Surplus food is transported to Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf. The Co-op, which employs more than 100 people, proves environmental protection, economic development, and healthy communities can go hand in hand.

In addition to the winners from Vermont, Nancy Siedman of Cambridge, Mass., was given the Ira Leighton "In Service to States" annual award for environmental achievement that has had an outsized impact in the state, the region, and nationally.

More information on EPA's Environmental Merit Awards, including photographs from the award ceremony: