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EPA Presents Environmental Merit Awards to Six in Connecticut

Release Date: 05/01/2002
Contact Information: Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office 617-918-1014

BOSTON – Six individuals and organizations from Connecticut were honored today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for their contributions to the environment.

The Connecticut winners were among 35 recipients from around New England that received Environmental Merit Awards at a ceremony at Faneuil Hall. The awards, given out since 1970, honor individuals and groups who have shown particular ingenuity and commitment in their efforts to preserve the region's environment. This year's competition drew more than 90 nominations.

"These individuals, businesses, non-profits and government agencies, often with little fanfare, have invested huge amounts of their time to make the environment of New England's cleaner and safer for future generations. And for that I think we should all be grateful," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "The recipients we are honoring today are New England's environmental heroes."

The winners from Connecticut were:

No Butts About It Litter Campaign: Amy, Allie, and David Steinmetz -- Woodbridge

In 1996, these three young people took part in a beach clean-up and noticed the large number of cigarette butts littering the area. They began a campaign, making posters to address the problem and inform the public using the slogan "The Earth is Not Your Ashtray. No Butts About It, Keep Our Earth Clean." In 1999, the Steinmetzs were awarded the Presidential Environmental Youth Award for New England as a result of their dedication to improving the nation's environment with their innovative campaign to end cigarette butt litter. Since then, they have expanded and intensified their efforts. The Steinmetzs give presentations at schools, organize clean-ups, involve their family, friends and neighbors, and have created a website. They have written to every U.S. Senator and Governor urging them to support legislation designed to mandate the provision by tobacco companies of disposable ashtrays in every pack of cigarettes. The Steinmetzs are working hard to clean up the nation's environment and deserve enormous credit for educating people all across the United States on this important environmental issue.

The Non-Community Drinking Water Team at the Connecticut Department of Public Health

The Non-Community Drinking Water Team at the Connecticut Department of Public Health was founded to help the more than 2,500 small, non-community drinking water systems in the state acknowledge the responsibilities of being a water supplier, find creative ways to come into compliance with regulations and understand and provide better drinking water for the public.. Convincing this group of water providers – which includes restaurants and gas stations for example – of their public health responsibility requires interpersonal skill, solid reasoning and patience. In 2001, the Non-Community Drinking Water Team at the Connecticut Department of Public Health turned their focus to 4,000 transient, non-community systems in the state. Their outreach effort helped reinforce the spirit of cooperation and provided tools necessary to ensure clean drinking water. Water system operators in Connecticut know that the state's Department of Health will not allow them to avoid their responsibilities, but will always work with them to solve their problems and keep their water safe.

Hartford Environmental Justice Network – Hartford

A chapter of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice, the Hartford Environmental Justice Network is one of New England's premier community-based organizations dedicated to promoting environmental justice and the public's health. It is comprised of 24 grass-roots organizations concerned about the environmental degradation in Hartford. The group has worked tirelessly to make sure the residents of the city are informed and participate in local decisions and that local polluters are held accountable when the put the public at risk. After learning that 40 percent of 7,000 children participating in an asthma study had the condition, the network took action to discuss the findings and ramifications with the community and lawmakers. As a result of this leadership, the Hartford City Council declared an asthma emergency in Hartford, a move which formally recognized asthma as an epidemic in the city. The network is a model of power of community to be protectors and stewards of the environment once residents are informed, trained and empowered. The network's leadership in bringing the issue of environmental justice and protection to the consciousness of everyday citizens and to the policy makers at the local and state level is a monumental achievement.

Park City Brownfields Redevelopment Partnership – Bridgeport

When folks in Bridgeport's West End had an opportunity to expand Went Field Park, adjacent empty lots seems the most logical place to go. But creating a consensus for the lots' reuse posed a problem – athletic groups wanted playing fields, residents wanted open space and two public schools viewed the space as good areas for them. The Park City Brownfields Redevelopment Partnership was formed to bridge the gaps and create a private/public partnership to facilitate the redevelopment process. The partnership used EPA funds to implement the Sustainable Brownfields Redevelopment process to build consensus around the park expansion and overcome the roadblocks to redevelopment. Community efforts cleaned up the existing park and neighborhood watch groups have improved park safety. The park is under construction now and will be completed by the summer.

Pfizer Global Research and Development – New London

When Pfizer chose to build a new global research and development facility in New London, the company was confronted with an adjacent waterway – Bentley Creek – that was heavily polluted from more than a century of industrial waste. The company agreed to restore Bentley Creek as part of its agreement for construction. Working with local, state and federal officials, Pfizer removed 1,800 tons of contaminated sediment, removed contaminated soil and derelict boats, constructed a new deep channel for better fish habitat and shaped the final marsh surface to maximize the growth of smooth cordgrass. In all, 2.5 million cordgrass seeds were planted. The restoration took two years of planning and six months of work and although the restored creek area is only about two acres, the impact on the local community has been enormously positive.

The New England Chapter of the American Public Works Association – Storrs

Spurred by EPA penalties against several town Department of Public Works (DPWs), the New England Chapter of the American Public Works Association took action in 2001. The group approached EPA New England to develop a self-audit program for DPWs in New England. DPW garages who performed self-audits, reported environmental violations, and corrected the violations would be given a low priority for inspections. Together with EPA, the Association has developed tip sheets and fact sheets for DPW directors, and held a series of workshops. More than 250 people attended the NEAPWA spring meeting last April to learn about the initiative. To date, more than 300 New England DPW garages have signed up for this voluntary program. NEAPWA is working with EPA New England to measure the environmental benefits of the program.

Also recognized for their work in Connecticut were:

Wheelabrator Technologies

Wheelabrator has taken on the challenge of mercury reduction in New England and nationwide. Recognizing the threat to the environment caused by releases of mercury, Wheelabrator designed a voluntary mercury pollution prevention program. In two Wheelabrator-run mercury collection and exchange events in New Hampshire and Connecticut the company has collected approximately 165 pounds of mercury from thermometers, thermostats and other equipment for proper disposal. The goal of Wheelabrator's voluntary mercury pollution prevention program is to decrease the amount of mercury in the environment.

Connecticut River Watershed Council

Nearly 50 years ago, the Connecticut River was described as the best landscaped sewer in the nations. Today, the river is largely cleaned up and restored – an environmental jewel to be appreciated and protected. At the center of this turn around is the Connecticut River Watershed Council (CRWC). Founded in 1952, the group has worked to promote restoration, conservation, and protection of the river and surrounding watershed. The council's record of achievement is founded on partnerships – when important issues arise, the council brings people together to address the challenges. In the mid-1980s, CRWC created the Connecticut River Watch program to monitor water quality using trained volunteers. More recently, the council has established a migratory fisheries restoration initiative to build fishways and remove dams to restore access to spawning habitats. For five decades the council has worked to resolve environmental challenges and protect New England's largest river ecosystem, the Connecticut River.