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Release Date: 04/19/2000
Contact Information: Amy Miller, EPA Press Office (617-918-1042)

BOSTON - Six individuals and organizations from Maine were honored today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for their contributions to the environment. The Maine winners were among 37 recipients from around New England that received Environmental Merit Awards at an Earth Day ceremony at Faneuil Hall.

The awards, given out since 1970, are awarded to individuals and groups who have shown particular ingenuity and commitment in their efforts to preserve the environment. This year's competition drew nearly 100 applications.

"These residents and organizations from Maine have played a significant role in protecting and cleaning the air, water and land that is so important to our health and well-being," said Mindy S. Lubber, EPA's New England Administrator. "All of us have the ability to serve the environment. It just takes will. The men and women being honored today serve as examples of people who had the will and found a way to help make sure we all have a cleaner, safer environment."

The six winners from Maine were:

    • Sharri Venno, Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians: As director of environmental planning for the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians in Houlton, Maine, Venno has overseen many programs that contribute to the health and environment of the 550 tribe members. Sharri developed a program that has helped protect tribal health as well as environmental resources of tribal lands and surrounding areas. Her department has done extensive water quality and biological monitoring of the Meduxnekeag River, which runs through the tribe's land. The department has also educated residents on nonpoint pollution practices and worked to find out why Brown Ash trees (used by traditional tribal basket makers) were suffering. Sharri has also overseen programs that test for radon in homes, screen blood lead levels and help remove asbestos.
    • The Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments, Auburn: Since 1995, the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments has organized the only regional household hazardous waste collection program in Maine. It has grown from 10 to 33 participating communities throughout the Androscoggin Valley region, with Auburn and 21 satellite locations serving as collection sites. In addition to removing household hazardous waste from the waste stream, the collection events provide a chance to inform the public about the dangers of - and alternatives to - using hazardous materials. The council recently received the green light from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to start a pilot program to collect flourescent bulbs and mercury containing devices. The program was launched last fall with 11 participating towns.
    • College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor: The College of the Atlantic has been a major catalyst in reshaping Maine's environmental policies. Since its founding in 1969, the college had made the environment a key focus of its educational programs. Among its newest initiatives was its Eco/Eco (Economy/Ecology) Civic Forum last year, which resulted in a series of statewide discussions on sprawl, smart growth, greenways and the effects of global climate change. The college also helped influence important policy changes, including Maine's trail-blazing returnable container law and the latest debates about clear cutting in the North Woods. The college's Natural History Museum educates several thousand visitors each year and through outreach programs such as the Summer Field Studies for Children. The school's alumni have become leaders in the environmental movement in Maine and nationwide.
    • Kennebec Coalition, Augusta: The Kennebec Coalition, comprised of Trout Unlimited and its Kennebec Valley Chapter, American Rivers, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, and the Natural Resources Council of Maine, was instrumental in bringing about the historic removal last summer of the Edwards Dam on the Kennebec River. With the dam's removal, Atlantic sturgeon, salmon and eight other species of migratory fish are able to reach historic spawning areas on the river that have been unavailable since the dam was built in 1837. In addition to a restored aquatic community, communities along the Kennebec anticipate increased opportunities for sport fishing, boating and other forms of recreation. Formed in 1989 to secure the dam's removal and restore the river, the coalition advocated that the environmental benefits of removing the dam outweighed the dam's economic value. The removal of the Edwards Dam has received nationwide attention and the Kennebec Coalition serves as a source of inspiration to organizations looking to replicate this success on other rivers.
    • Lakes Environmental Association, Bridgton: For 30 years, the Lakes Environmental Association has provided water quality monitoring, technical assistance and watershed management education to towns in the Sebago-Long Lakes region in western Maine. The nonprofit conservation group is supported by an active membership of more than 1,000 families and businesses and a dedicated staff. The group's activities include water quality testing on 37 lakes, education programs for schools, advocacy on legislation and technical assistance to landowners. The association also has worked with towns on development reviews, growth planning and ordinance development. The group also has a penchant for innovative programs -- among those, the "Clean Lakes Check-Up" for property owners who need help with storm water runoff and erosion problems, a "Hotspots" watershed computer model for identifying and estimating nutrient loadings to lakes, and the "Camp Roads Survey" Program to identify road erosion problems.
    • McKin Superfund Site Citizens Advisory Group & the Ad Hoc Property Owners Group for the McKin Superfund Site, Gray: Together, the McKin Superfund Site Citizens Advisory Group and the Ad Hoc Property Owners Group played a key role in reaching an agreement after a 2-year mediation effort concerning the cleanup of contaminated groundwater and protection of the Royal River at the McKin Superfund Site in Gray. The advisory group acted as the glue to a highly fractious, multi-party mediation process. The Ad Hoc Property Owners Group, made up of 18 property owners, provided the last piece of the puzzle by agreeing to a fair solution that included an allocation of available funds for the purchase of their water rights.