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Massachusetts Citizens and Organizations Recognized by EPA for Environmental Achievements

09/10/2019
Contact Information: 
David Deegan (deegan.dave@epa.gov)
(617) 918-1017

BOSTON – Six individuals and two organizations in Massachusetts were recognized today by the US Environmental Protection Agency for their work to protect New England's environment. These environmental leaders were among 25 recipients across New England honored by EPA's New England office at the 2019 Environmental Merit Awards ceremony at Faneuil Hall.

Edward Kunce of Brockton was recognized with a lifetime award for his many years of service to the health and environment of the state, and former EPA Regional Administrator Michael R. Deland of Marion was recognized posthumously with a lifetime award. In addition, awards were given to Isabel Tourkantonis of Billerica; Andrew Davison of Sandwich; Robin Chapell of Walpole; Ivey St. John of Charlestown; the Central Massachusetts Regional Stormwater Coalition of Spencer; the Provincetown Stormwater Program in Provincetown, and the Town of Andover along with the City of Lawrence.

"The New England individuals, businesses, and organizations recognized today have shown dedication to the environmental and public health in their communities," said EPA New England Administrator Dennis Deziel. "We are proud to present awards to these stewards of New England's air, land and water."

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. Each year EPA presents lifetime achievement awards for individuals. Also at the merit ceremony, EPA New England announced that The Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition in Springfield would be honored for its role in children's health. Established in 2006, the coalition works to improve the lives of families, individuals, and communities affected by asthma in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts.

The 2019 Merit Award Winners from Massachusetts were:

Lifetime Achievement awards

Michael R. Deland - posthumous
Marion

Michael R. Deland was regional administrator of EPA's New England office from 1983 to 1989. Deland was appointed regional administrator by EPA Administrator William Ruckelshaus. In this role, the Massachusetts native was central to the cleanup of Boston Harbor, having filed the lawsuit in 1985 on behalf of the EPA that led to the cleanup of one of the nation's dirtiest bodies of water. He once was called "the most aggressive environmental law enforcement official in the nation" by an attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation.

Deland first came to EPA in the early 1970s as a lawyer, went on to join a consulting firm before returning to New England EPA as administrator. President George H.W. Bush in 1989 named Deland chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which coordinates environmental policy for the White House. When EPA scaled back staff in the 1980s, Deland wrote a column for the American Chemical Society journal noting the drop-off in enforcement cases was prompting "the question whether the agency can continue to be a viable factor in environmental protection." Deland was known to consistently seek out expert opinions before making decisions, aware he had to take into account the interests of environmentalists, developers, and economic advisers.

Although Deland always will be remembered for the Boston Harbor cleanup, another of his notable accomplishments had national implications. After Michael overruled an Army Corps of Engineers permit for mall developers to fill in 32 acres of wetlands in Attleboro, the case went to the US Supreme Court. This led to a 1989 ruling that forced developers look for alternative sites rather than filling in wetlands.

Not to be deterred by his physical challenges, Deland used a cane, then crutches, and finally a wheelchair to get to where he had to be amid debilitating and worsening back problems. He was proud to have led a successful campaign to get a statue of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, seated in his wheelchair, at his memorial in Washington. In 1992, Deland accompanied Bush to Rio de Janeiro, where Bush signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Deland was born in Boston in 1941 and grew up in Brookline. He learned to sail during summers in Marion and continued to race even after his walking was limited. He received a bachelor's degree from Harvard in 1963 before he joined the Navy, where he was stationed in Japan. He graduated in 1969 from Boston College Law School and in 1973 married Jane Slocum.

After Deland's death in January of this year, his family said in a statement, "We had the great privilege of witnessing our Dad's perseverance, humor, and steadfast loyalty and determination on a daily basis."

Edward P. Kunce
Brockton

From 1986 until 2012, Edward Kunce served as regional director, deputy commissioner and acting commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. For over two decades, Kunce oversaw DEP's permitting, compliance and enforcement, technical assistance, and emergency response functions. In all these efforts, he showed a commitment to environmental results, a desire to advance innovative approaches, and an ability to collaborate.

His leadership on major, highly complex projects illustrates Kunce's success. The Central Artery/Tunnel Project created tremendous environmental challenges, including how to handle 30 million tons of excavated, contaminated material. Kunce led DEP's efforts, working with local, state, and federal partners to develop approaches that resulted in the reuse of excavated material; returning 1,600 acres of land to beneficial uses, the majority for parks and athletic fields; remediation of 27 acres, allowing for development of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway; and adding 6,900 feet of Boston Harborwalk.

Kunce provided similar leadership at the Massachusetts Military Reservation Superfund Site. At a time when the cleanup was floundering, Ed was instrumental in establishing a strategic plan, with scheduled and enforceable milestones, as well as in creating a new management structure that eased the way for more public participation.  These efforts moved the reservation's cleanup program from failure to success. 

Kunce's innovative methods include the Environmental Results Program, Third-Party Inspectors, multi-media inspections, and a semi-privatized waste site cleanup program. He successfully promoted new permitting and regulatory requirements that yielded environmental improvements, such as mercury controls on waste combustors that dramatically reduced mercury emissions; diesel retrofit requirements for construction equipment; and permits for natural gas plants resulting in the cleanest plants in the country. He led development of the department's mobile lab, improving its ability to respond to emergencies and provide real-time data used to assess and prevent, public health threats.

While these achievements are examples of Kunce 's successful approach, they provide just a glimpse into his impact on DEP. He fostered an atmosphere where innovation and common sense were part of the discussion of complex problems. He understood that all of the tools in the regulatory tool box - compliance and enforcement, as well as technical assistance and effective communication – are important. Through his efforts and leadership, Ed played a huge role in shaping DEP into the results-driven, innovative and collaborative agency it is today. 

Individual

Isabel Tourkantonis
Billerica

Scientists in municipal government often don't get the accolades they deserve. Isabel Tourkantonis, Billerica's director of environmental affairs, deserves recognition for finding workable solutions to complex wetland environmental issues. With two tributary rivers - the Concord and Shawsheen - and many perennial streams, marshes, swamps, ponds, and isolated wetland pockets, the community depends on coordination between departments and applicants, an area where Tourkantonis shines. In addition, Tourkantonis is recognized for daily work doing technical reviews, delineations, restoration plans, vernal pool identification, and permitting. Finally, her efforts to prevent and reduce contamination deserve recognition. Through due diligence and outreach to property owners, she has added critical, biodiverse parcels to the inventory of land set aside for conservation. Within two years, Tourkantonis has helped the town receive: five acres of marsh and floodplains in the Robbins Conservation Area, a wildlife corridor associated with a perennial tributary of the Shawsheen River; a 24-acre land area associated with the Village Crossing Project housing development, largely comprised of bordering vegetated wetlands; and a 1.45-acre Carter Avenue parcel in a scenic segment of the Concord River and an abutting riverfront parcel for the purposes of preserving and restoring a floodplain, riverfront and a buffer zone. Billerica residents do not always recognize efforts to enforce wetland protection rules, nor the struggle to convince individuals to donate land. Tourkantonis takes that burden for the benefit of the community and planet.

Ivey St. John
Charlestown

Ivey St. John, retiree and advocate from Charlestown, was a founding member of the Mystic River Watershed Steering Committee. St. John represents the Charlestown Waterfront Coalition on the steering committee. The Mystic River Watershed Initiative kicked off with a summit in 2008 that focused on water quality, open space, flooding, and industrial contamination in the 76-square-mile watershed. The steering committee was formed in 2009, co-chaired by EPA and the Mystic River Watershed Association. It helps establish priorities for the river and watershed, and recommends projects, specifically related to water quality and public access in the watershed.

From the start, St. John pushed to get non-profit groups an equal voice on the committee. The organization has taken on issues like eutrophication, sanitary sewer overflows, stormwater, and contamination related to heavy metals in fish tissue. St. John worked with EPA and the Mystic River Watershed Association, pushing for improved water quality, open space, and public access to the river and its tributaries.

St. John has been a voice in every discussion at nearly every event and meeting since the initiative began. After a 2006 oil spill in Chelsea Creek, she helped lead a coalition to petition to have a portion of the penalty used for projects in the Mystic River watershed. Ultimately, $1 million was awarded for projects that reduced stormwater runoff, removed invasive species, supported monitoring, and improved habitat in the Malden River. St. John has made exemplary efforts on behalf of the Mystic River Watershed.

Andrew Davison
Sandwich

Over the past two decades, Andrew Davison, founder of Cape Cod Biofuels, has run a company with a clean fuel business model that extracts byproducts from farmlands, feeds citizens and recycles byproducts into clean fuels. His products improve air and water quality and increase energy and community resilience. The unique closed-loop recycling program developed by Cape Cod Biofuels reduced emissions. In 2018, more than 100 companies produced nearly 2 billion gallons of biodiesel nationwide. Most producers purchase oils and fats that remain in our economy in excess and recycle them into biofuel. Over a dozen of these companies operate secondary businesses: waste oil collection services from restaurants. Cape Cod Biofuels closes the loop from farms to fuel tanks. It works with farmers to supply oil to more than 400 restaurants, then collects used oil from these and 500 additional restaurants. It keeps the oil out of landfills by using it to make biodiesel that powers four of its trucks. It is also sold to construction companies, landscapers, commercial fisherman and municipalities. While clean-fueled trucks deliver vegetable oils, others recycle these same oils before recycling them into biofuels, leaving no used oil wasted. They then supply regional fleets with their final product. Davison, a US Coast Guard veteran, saw the impacts of the degradation of New England waters. The 700,000 gallons of biodiesel produced by Cape Cod Biofuels has resulted in an annual reduction of 50,000 pounds of carbon monoxide; 6,000 pounds of hydrocarbon and 5,000 pounds of particulate matter.

Robin Chapell
Walpole

Robin Chapell, health director for the Town of Walpole, for decades has been an integral part of the successful redevelopment of the Blackburn & Union Privileges Superfund Site. As a member of the site's technical team, Chapell was critical to the success of the cleanup and redevelopment. Her perseverance in representing community interests helped turn the formerly unusable properties into a police station, senior center and parking lot, all heavily used by the community. After the initial cleanup at the site, which has been listed as a Superfund site since 1994, the town was left with mostly abandoned mill buildings, an eyesore in a residential neighborhood. One was in such poor condition the local fire chief wouldn't allow crews inside if the building caught fire. After decades of negotiating, responsible parties agreed to take the buildings down, and redevelopment became possible. Without Chapell's participation, negotiations might not have succeeded. An excellent mediator, Chapell helped the site team navigate community needs, while reiterating that the cleanup had to be done to enhance the community. She worked for creative solutions that address both community concerns and environmental health. The result was the mill buildings coming down, contamination being more effectively contained, and the siting and aesthetic of the water treatment plant being changed to assuage neighborhood concerns. In addition, the town agreed to take the property by tax title, and the responsible parties took down the buildings. Redevelopment on the entire property was then possible.

Government

Central Massachusetts Regional Stormwater Coalition
Spencer

In 2011, three town administrators in Central Massachusetts created a coalition to help communities better manage stormwater. The idea for the Central Massachusetts Regional Stormwater Coalition was developed out of frustration about municipal budgets that never seem large enough for multiple infrastructure challenges and a desire to protect the community's natural resources. The 13 neighboring communities involved recognized they share stormwater systems, surface water resources, and the need to protect these resources. They set out to address common stormwater management priorities and to share solutions. Together, the coalition, funded with a state grant, has been able to protect shared resources and meet the requirements of their permits through National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. It has developed templates, materials, and training, available on its website, to help communities comply with stormwater permits and use best management practices. The coalition has grown to include 30 communities and in 2014, partnered with the state Department of Environmental Protection to invite other regional coalitions into a statewide coalition that became the Massachusetts Statewide Municipal Stormwater Coalition. The Central Massachusetts Regional Stormwater Coalition has earned a reputation for empowering communities to better manage stormwater. It has worked to engage the community, provide a forum for information and education, and advocate for stormwater management practices that protect New England's environment.

Provincetown Stormwater Program
Provincetown

Dense development and large amounts of nonporous pavement in Provincetown Harbor have resulted in significant amounts of stormwater runoff reaching the harbor, hurting shell fishing and reducing water quality. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection placed Provincetown Harbor on its 1992 Clean Water Act list of impaired waters for pathogens caused by polluted stormwater runoff. As a result, Provincetown, among other changes, installed more than two miles of porous pavement on Commercial Street. Provincetown Harbor has already found it has cleaner water, with a 90 percent reduction in beach closings. The improvements addressed bacterial and untreated stormwater runoff from the main street through town, Commercial Street, which provides primary access to the harbor and hosts hundreds of businesses. The challenge of treating stormwater from this narrow, highly traveled corridor was solved by reconstructing the road using porous pavement over a stone reservoir bed. Besides improving the harbor's water quality, the road reconstruction revitalizes the downtown. So far, 7,750 feet of Commercial Street were reconstructed with a new water main, granite curb, and pavement. Drainage at 17 outfalls was retrofitted with porous pavement. The project has been funded through a combination of town investments and grant funds. Business owners have been happy with the lack of standing water during rain. A progressive community and strong project team insured a successful application of the porous pavement.

City of Lawrence
Town of Andover

The Lawrence Water & Sewer Department and the Andover Water Department made extraordinary efforts to help support the goal of developing a comprehensive water strategy for the Merrimack River. The Merrimack River is the most impaired water body in New England and serves as a drinking water source for five Massachusetts communities: Lawrence, Andover, Methuen, Tewksbury and Lowell. EPA's Office of Research and Development undertook a study to help assess and predict water quality in the Merrimack and, as part of its study, needed to install monitoring equipment at two drinking water intake locations. Andover and Lawrence generously provided access and assistance to EPA to install monitoring equipment necessary to support the study. Without Andover's and Lawrence's cooperation and assistance, EPA could not have undertaken this seminal water quality monitoring project – the only one of its kind in New England. Through this project, EPA collected water quality data during dry and wet weather to help predict bacterial conditions in the Merrimack River that could impact drinking water and recreational activities. The data collected was shared in "real-time" on EPA's website.

In addition to these winners, Robert Klee, commissioner of Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection from January 2014 to December 2018, 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 year's Environmental Awards Ceremony was dedicated to the memory of Douglas M. Costle, who served as administrator for EPA from 1977 to 1981 and was among the driving forces in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

More information on EPA's Environmental Merit Awards, including photographs from the award ceremony: https://www.epa.gov/environmental-merit-awards-new-england