EPA Recognizes Seven Massachusetts Organizations and Citizens with Regional Environmental Award
BOSTON (Sept. 14, 2021) – Awards were presented today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to seven individuals and businesses in Massachusetts who were recognized for their work to protect New England's environment. These businesses, non-profits, and government agencies were among 22 recipients across New England honored by EPA's New England Office at the 2021 Environmental Merit Awards virtual ceremony.
EPA New England's annual Environmental Merit Awards are given to community leaders, scientists, government officials, business leaders, schools, and students who represent different approaches, but a common commitment to environmental protection.
Chuckie Green of Mashpee was honored with an award for Lifetime Achievement. Also recognized with awards were: Thomas Maguire of Arlington in the individual category. Food Link MA of Arlington, Nuestra Comunidad CDC with Windale Developers of Roxbury and Chelsea GreenRoots of Chelsea in the enviro, community, academia, nonprofit category; Regency Transportation of Franklin in the business category and, MassDEP PFAS Team of Boston in the government category. Finally, EPA recognized the Massachusetts Water Works Association; Massachusetts Rural Water Association; and the Massachusetts Water and Wastewater Response Network for their work along with other New England organizations to protect the public from COVID-19 associated risks and ensuring safe water in New England.
"Initiatives led by individuals and organizations like these have made great strides towards combatting climate change, bringing cleaner air and cleaner water, and ensuring our underserved communities' voices are being heard," said EPA New England Acting Regional Administrator Deborah Szaro. "EPA is proud to recognize these awardees' great accomplishments and their continued efforts, especially throughout the pandemic. They truly make a difference in our New England communities."
"Awards like these rightfully honor the exemplary contributions of individuals, advocates, and state workers to protect public health and the environment," said Martin Suuberg, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). "We are pleased to see so many Massachusetts individuals and organizations honored at today's event."
The 2021 Merit Award Winners from Massachusetts were:
Chuckie Green, Mashpee
ChuckieGreen retired in January 2021 as natural resources director of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, having benefited his tribe and community since his teenage years. Green served on the Mashpee board of selectmen from 2000 through 2009. In 2008, he became chair of the board, a position not filled by a Mashpee Wampanoag tribal member in 30 years. He also served as a leader in the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe as vice chairman from 1993 to 1996 and as tribal historic authority director and preservation officer from 2006 to 2012. Green was on the Mashpee Conservation Commission and was district supervisor for the Barnstable County Conservation District, both from 1992 to 2000. He became district supervisor again in 2010. Protecting the tribe's natural resources was a priority, but Green's greatest gift to the environment was forming the tribe's Natural Resources Department in March 2008 using an EPA grant. He then served as director and assistant director of the department.
In 1995, Chuckie helped establish the Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge partnership involving eight conservation landowners. From 2000 to 2012, he was on a board overseeing the Superfund cleanup of the former Otis Air Force Base. In 2008, he established the Mashpee Water Collaboration in partnership with the tribe, the town and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth to monitor water quality of nearby waterways. In 2012, Chuckie established a project addressing nitrogen-loading and fish kill in the Mashpee River and Popponesset Bay system. And in 2012, he started an environmental science camp for tribal youth.
Since 2010, Chuckie has partnered with the US Army Corp of Engineers to mitigate algal growth and restore habitat in Santuit Pond. Chuckie's lifetime investment in environmental leadership and cultural preservation will have a lasting impact on Mashpee Wampanoag tribal members.
Thomas Maguire, Boston
Thomas Maguire has served for over 20 years as the chief resource for stormwater in the Wetlands Program of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. Maguire's expertise in hydraulics and hydrology was recognized in 2019 with a promotion to a new position, senior analyst for climate resiliency and hydraulic and hydrologic support. With increased precipitation and revisions to federal stormwater permits, DEP's Stormwater Handbook and regulations needed updating. Precipitation estimates used to design stormwater control measures did not reflect reality. Also, the DEP needed to align its regulations with the federal permit. Maguire initiated a study to determine how standards for stormwater should be updated, using his regulatory experience and expertise in statistical modeling and analysis. Based on Maguire's study, DEP is revising critical regulations. Rather than using the median rainfall amount, DEP proposes to rely on the upper range reflecting the higher end of extreme storms now seen. This approach is intended to prepare Massachusetts for the future. Maguire also is participating in the Massachusetts Stormwater Handbook update, which supports the wetlands stormwater regulations. These changes to stormwater management will result in long-term improvements to water quality. The standards will be used by municipalities and developers statewide and available to other states.
Mass. DEP PFAS Team, Boston
Staff in the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection have worked above and beyond to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, chemicals known as PFAS. The department's PFAS team has made tremendous progress in addressing PFAS issues by helping communities impacted by contamination, putting in place protective regulations, gathering data to determine the extent of contamination, and assessing PFAS in other media. The DEP has designated the equivalent of 13 full time staff to address PFAS over a one-year period. This team has worked extensively with communities where PFAS were detected, reviewing treatment options, helping with permits, and providing the public with information on the health effects of PFAS. The DEP also promulgated a stringent drinking water standard, monitored water supplies in search of contaminated sites, provided free lab analyses for water systems, and developed sampling programs. DEP also created a new grant program to support PFAS treatment design, awarding $5 million to support 27 communities. With $2 million in state funding, the department created a program to help impacted public water supply systems provide safe drinking water.
Environmental, community, academia or nonprofit
Food Link, Arlington
Food Link is made up of volunteers who rescue food that would have been wasted and deliver it to community organizations. In 2018, EPA estimated about 63 million tons of wasted food was generated, which represented about a fifth of municipal solid waste. Since 2012, Food Link's efforts have supported EPA's sustainable management of food, reduced the amount of wasted food entering the solid waste stream and provided food to communities. In 2020, Food Link rescued over 1.2 million pounds of food, the equivalent of one million meals. The rescued food is distributed to more than 100 agencies that serve at-risk youth, individuals with disabilities, families, veterans, seniors on fixed incomes, and the homeless. Food Link has partnered with more than 100 local grocers, distributors, and farms to rescue food that might have ended up in landfills. In 2021, Food Link opened a new building that can receive large deliveries, and provide an indoor sorting space and expanded cold storage, all of which lets Food Link rescue more food.
GreenRoots of Chelsea, a community organization dedicated to improving the environment and public health in Chelsea, works to empower a region that has long been underserved and disproportionately polluted. Working with community members, youth, other organizations and government, GreenRoots has protected and improved the environment of Chelsea, one of the most polluted cities in New England with high rates of asthma, heart disease, lung disease and cancer. Just as importantly, GreenRoots brought to the table residents who had lacked a voice. In the last year, historic inequities have been exacerbated by the pandemic as Chelsea experienced the highest rate of COVID-19 infections in the state. In 2020, GreenRoots was key to obtaining funding for the Mystic River Watershed, air monitors for the City of Chelsea, and COVID-19 protections for residents. Over the years, GreenRoots has helped restore urban salt marsh, create new parks, increase public access to the waterfront and improve water quality in Chelsea Creek. Recently, GreenRoots engaged the community in the discharge permitting process for petroleum storage facilities at Chelsea Creek and Logan Airport. GreenRoots provides an example of successful community collaboration and environmental protection.
Nuestra Comunidad Community Development Corporation and Windale Developers, Roxbury
Nuestra Comunidad Community Development Corporation and Windale Developers have transformed a blighted and vacant brownfield into a true asset for the local community. The historic Dudley Square neighborhood of Roxbury has seen more than its share of job loss, environmental degradation and environmental justice concerns. Bartlett Yard, a former train and bus maintenance facility, sat in a mostly residential neighborhood and raised concerns about air quality, asthma rates, heat islands, lead paint, asbestos, and contaminated soils. A partnership between Nuestra Comunidad Community Development Corp. and Windale Developers led to a renewal of this 8-acre site, showing how redevelopment can be done to meaningfully address concerns of the community. Now called Bartlett Station, this former brownfield site will have 166 for- homes, 214 rental sale apartments, and 30,000 square feet of commercial space. Two-thirds of the housing will be reserved for low to moderate income residents and commercial space is targeted to include a grocery store. Nuestra Comunidad bought the property from the MBTA in 2010 and secured funding to assess and clean the site from MassDevelopment and EPA's Brownfields program. Nuestra Comunidad and Windale, a local minority-owned developer with experience in housing, leveraged state and federal funding totaling more than $32 million. Bartlett Station will be a net energy producer, incorporating features such as passive solar heating, geothermal heat pumps, rain and gray water recycling, and renewable materials.
Regency Transportation of Franklin helped increase understanding of heavy-duty truck emissions by equipping their trucks with data loggers over 100 days of real-world operation. Heavy-duty trucks contribute 42 percent of on-road vehicle NOX emissions in the United States and little real-world operation and emissions data are available in the Northeast. This data collection helped address that gap. The data collected are being evaluated by a variety of organizations, including EPA, Climate Change Canada, Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, and the Ozone Transport Commission, all with the goal to use the data to improve emissions models and help inform policy decisions. The project has provided researchers, policy makers, regulators and national labs with a one-of-a kind data set of real-world truck operating conditions and NOX and carbon dioxide emissions in cold weather and other conditions typical in the Northeast. The data sheds light on the need for more stringent regulation and new requirements that will substantially reduce NOX emissions and provide long-term health benefits, especially in overburdened communities where older trucks often operate.
Also presented today was the Children's Environmental Health Award, which was given to Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership in Lexington. This organization envisions the transformation of the region's homes, buildings, and communities into affordable, low-carbon, resilient places to live, work, and play. Focused on collaborating to form more energy-efficient buildings, the organization has worked since 2002 to promote high performance schools. The organization helped schools incorporate sustainable measures by bringing together experts to design, build and maintain schools. In doing so, they take into consideration the environmental health of students and teachers. The partnership has helped develop building criteria for schools that prioritize indoor environmental quality like acoustics, lighting and air quality. It has worked directly with states and school districts, organizing several conferences on high performance schools and holding 10 regional school summits since 2009. As a result of its work, three schools in Concord, NH, for example, designed their buildings to be more sustainable and better learning environments, which led to less absenteeism in all three schools. In the words of one educator, "We are using our buildings as a teaching tool in our schools so the next generation is exposed to the impact of buildings and how they can reduce the use of energy in the buildings."
Another award Merit Award was given in the Government category for the COVID-19 Ensuring Safe Drinking Water Team, a conglomerate of New England's state drinking water programs, state water and wastewater agency response networks, and other water sector associations that ensured the safe operations of water utilities during the pandemic. This conglomerate included the Massachusetts Water Works Association; Massachusetts Rural Water Association; and the Massachusetts Water and Wastewater Response Network.
It also included from other New England States: the Maine Rural Water Association; Maine Water and Wastewater Response Network and the Maine Drinking Water Program - Centers for Disease Control the Connecticut Department of Public Health; Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection; New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services; Rhode Island Department of Health; Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation; Connecticut Water and Wastewater Response Network; Rhode Island Water and Wastewater Response Network; Rhode Island Water Works Association; Vermont Water and Wastewater Response Network; Vermont Rural Water Association; New England Water Works Association; and Rural Community Assistance Program.
During the pandemic, water system managers and operators faced staff and chemical shortages, restricted access to assets, and health and safety challenges. In the midst of this, drinking water programs created new guidance around flushing, hydrant sampling, tap sampling and Legionella control as well as designed new protocols that enabled state staff to perform remote sanitary surveys of water utilities. The programs also issued email newsletters; helped with virtual meetings with the state drinking water staff; developed virtual training opportunities; and offered professional training to keep certified operators up to date. While the New England state drinking water programs worked to address the regulatory, policy, and technical assistance challenges of the pandemic, the state water and wastewater agency response networks worked to protect the health and safety of water system managers and operators. Because of their efforts, drinking water in New England remains safe and plentiful, even during the pandemic.
In addition to these Merit Award winners, Janet Coit, of Rhode Island, 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. This award recognized Coit, former director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM), for being a leader in finding ways for the New England states to work as a team. Coit readily engaged in New England regional environmental challenges, including addressing PFAS, responding to climate change, improving water quality, and addressing equity and justice issues. In addition, in Rhode Island specifically, Coit focused on improving natural resource conservation, promoting locally grown food, and addressing the climate crisis. Coit continues her environmental service today, as she currently serves as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Deputy Administrator.
EPA New England each year recognizes individuals and groups in the six New England states who 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.
For more information on EPA's Environmental Merit Awards, including photographs from the award ceremony: https://www.epa.gov/environmental-merit-awards-new-england