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EPA Presents Environmental Merit Awards to 6 in Connecticut

Release Date: 04/18/2001
Contact Information: Mark Merchant, EPA Press Office (617-918-1013)

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 33 recipients from around New England that received Environmental Merit Awards at an Earth Day 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 nearly 100 nominations.

"The individuals and groups we are honoring today are New England's real environmental heroes," said Ira Leighton, acting regional administrator for EPA New England. "Often with little fanfare, they have invested huge amounts of their time to make New England's environmental cleaner and safer for future generations. We owe them all a huge debt of gratitude."

The winners from Connecticut were:


Environmental, Community or Non-Profit Organizations

Long Island Sound Study Citizens Advisory Committee in Stamford: The Long Island Sound Study CAC has been an instrumental public advisory partner to the Long Island Sound Management Conference concerning the restoration and protection of the Sound. Comprised of 60 member organizations, the CAC worked successfully with the Long Island Sound Caucus of the U.S. Congress to pass critical legislation reauthorizing the Long Island Sound Study – legislation that means $40 million of funding annually and extending the program through 2005. A key component of the legislation is a provision to assist distressed communities with the cost of upgrading sewage treatment plants to meet the 58.5 percent overall nitrogen reduction goal for the Sound. The CAC also was instrumental in developing a Long Island Sound Agreement for 2001. At the CAC's recommendation, the agreement will focus on restoring living marine resources and their habitats. Among the specific goals are restoring 2,000 acres of tidal wetlands and opening 100 river miles to anadromous fish passage within 10 years.

Pliny Street Block Association & Clay Arsenal Neighborhood Revitalization Zone, Hartford: After years of lobbying, the Clay Arsenal Neighborhood Revitalization Zone and Pliny Street Block Association achieved a major hurdle last summer with the demolition of the former Proctor-Silex factory complex on Pliny Street in Hartford, CT. But demolition was only the beginning. The two groups have since petitioned the city to make the site a priority under the city's Brownfields Pilot Program. Due to chromium contamination, the property was referred to EPA for evaluation and cleanup. The commitment of the two groups is a model for demonstrating the success that stakeholders can achieve through involvement, dedication and commitment to their communities. Their efforts have played a key role in prompting local, state and federal action at the site and bringing potentially responsible parties to the table to negotiate removal actions and long-term remediation, which will position the property for future development and use by the community.

Stamford Job Training Team in Stamford: Stamford is ripe with opportunities for Brownfields cleanups, but without a trained local workforce, restoring these properties is more difficult. Armed with a $200,000 Job Training Grant, Stamford's Job Training Team set out to change this. A class of 16 Stamford residents is now taking college-level classes, lead and asbestos certification courses, and 40-hour health and safety training in preparation for new jobs in the environmental field. By next month, when the group graduates, the city should have 16 people ready to take on the city's contaminated sites, many in close proximity to residences. The program also gives community members a better chance of claiming steady jobs at good wages. The person who spearheaded this successful job training program is Peggy Atherton, a retired school teacher and real estate broker who took the part-time position of recruiter and case manager. Credit also should go to the Norwalk Community College and the city's Community Action Agency, who were partners in this successful undertaking.


Business, Industry, Trade or Professional Organizations

Nathan Jacobson & Associates in Chester: Nathan Jacobson of Nathan Jacobson & Associates is being recognized for his contributions to projects that allow fish to migrate past dams along the Connecticut River valley. Nathan's pro bono engineering services have helped pave the way for the installation of fishways on the Eightmile River and Mill Brook. He also contributed substantial services to the Ed Bill's Pond fishway project, an effort that has furthered the restoration of Atlantic salmon and expanded the spawning range for several other migratory fish species by over four miles. Nathan's donations of free engineering services, and the experience and reputation he brings to projects, have smoothed the way for project approvals and ensured that fishway projects are built quickly, efficiently and with a minimum of disturbance to the river environment. In the words of the dam safety division of the CT Department of Environmental Protection, Nathan is "the best thing that's ever happened for fish restoration in the Connecticut River watershed."

William Hull of Hull Forest Products Inc. in Pomfret Center: William Hull, a sawmill owner in Pomfret, organized and led the Hull Peck project, which has permanently protected more than 8,500 acres of forest along the Westfield and Farmington Rivers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Hull, a long-time advocate of protecting private forest lands through conservation easements, launched the innovative project in 1999 with the purchase of 7,000 acres in 34 parcels from the heirs of the Peck Lumber Co. In order to fund part of the purchase price of the 34 properties, Hull sold conservation easements on an additional 16 properties that he already owned, bringing the total land protected to 8,581 acres. Hull, in collaboration with the New England Forestry Foundation, then worked with the state of Massachusetts, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the cities of Springfield, Holyoke and Hartford, and the Norcross Wildlife Foundation to secure purchasers of conservation easements for each of the 34 parcels. The project, which includes nearly six miles of frontage on the Westfield River alone, has been the single largest land conservation project in Massachusetts' history and is a model for combining public, private and non-profit resources to protect forest landscapes.


Individuals

Owen J. Humphries, Jr. of Hartford: As coordinator of the Hartford Health Department's Lead Poisoning Prevention and Education Program since 1993, Owen Humphries has showed dedication and creativity to help reduce childhood lead poisoning in Hartford. He has initiated partnerships with non-profits, state groups and businesses to launch innovative education campaigns. He has worked to educate property owners, business owners and others and has shared his expertise throughout New England. One of his most innovative projects was a curriculum for grades two and three adopted by the Hartford Public Schools. "The Adventures of the Lead Busters Club," available in English and Spanish, includes an activity book for kids, information for teachers and parents and assessment tools. Since 1999, Owen has also overseen lead-poisoning prevention training for more than100 childcare providers in the city. His campaign has brought lead poisoning education to 140 buses and five bus shelters, 16 billboards and 1.5 million milk cartons, as well as 13 city trucks. As project manager for the city's Lead-Based Paint Abatement Program, he oversaw work that resulted in 150 housing units becoming lead safe.

Walter Zadora of Dayville: Walter Zadora, a sixth-grade teacher at the Killingly Intermediate School in Dayville, CT, has participated in EPA's Earth Artist Program each year since it was started 28 years ago. This program asks teachers to bring the environment to their classrooms by having students express their feelings about the environment and how to protect it through art and poetry. Walter has taught hundreds of students the importance of protecting the environment. He gave lessons on the environment long before it was recognized as an important subject. He realizes children are the future of this country and its environment and is being honored for his vision today and for the last 28 years.

For more information on EPA New England's Environmental Merit Awards, visit the EPA's Website at: www.epa.gov/region01/ra/ema/index.html.