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EPA Presents Environmental Merit Awards to 10 in Massachusetts

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

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

The Massachusetts 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 Massachusetts were:

State Government

Tara Gallagher of Swampscott: Tara Gallagher, an employee at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, has been effectively protecting drinking water for Massachusetts citizens for the last 16 years and is a prime reason why the Commonwealth is recognized nationally as a leader in drinking water protection. Starting as project coordinator for the Cape Cod Aquifer Management Project and moving on to manage the state's Drinking Water Source Protection Program, Tara has consistently developed effective drinking water source protection methods. Massachusetts is one of the first states in the country to have an EPA-approved Wellhead Protection Program and Source Water Assessment Program. And it is the only state to have an EPA-endorsed Comprehensive Drinking Water Source Protection Program. More than 85 percent of the state's population receives its water from systems with some form of source water protection in place. EPA continues to point to Tara's programs as examples on how to achieve drinking water protection.


Local Government

Ipswich Open Space Committee: Members of Ipswich's Open Space Committee have a long and successful track record protecting open space in their town – not only identifying areas of concern and particular parcels, but most importantly creating funding for the town to use for open space protection. The committee worked with local representatives to secure legislative approval last year, allowing the town to earmark hotel/motel tax revenue for an open space fund. The group also identified specific open space parcels for protection (a process that included an evaluation of 85 parcels for conservation easements), and helped build town support for approval of a $10 million open space bond. The committee's hard work has not only advanced open space protection in the environmentally important "Great Marsh" areas within the town, but has served as a model for others – as demonstrated by West Newbury's $5 million bond issue modeled after Ipswich's work.

Environmental, Community or Non-Profit Organizations

Concerned Citizens of Freetown in Freetown: Seven individuals in Freetown – Lawrence Gonet, Laurie Peckham, David Branco, Nanci Lown, Donna Brightman, the Rev. Curtis Dias and Mark Howland – have contributed a great deal to protecting the environment of their small southeastern Massachusetts town. Gonet focused attention on groundwater contamination, water supply threats and wetlands issues relating to a quarry located in East Freetown. He also successfully defended himself against a $500,000 lawsuit for speaking out on these issues. Peckham, Lown and Brightman researched, documented and articulated their concerns about the widespread disposal of coal waste in their community from coal-burning power plants. Meanwhile, Branco and Rev. Dias have been strong advocates for environmental justice, focusing attention on wetlands protection and objections to siting of asphalt, concrete and other new industry in Freetown. The achievements of Freetown's Sensational Seven could not have been realized without the dedication of Freetown Selectman Mark Howland who provided a place where concerns can be expressed and led a charge to ensure that business development goes hand-in-hand with clean responsible resource protection. The group's underlying concern for the community and its natural resources – and their willingness to work with everyone in Freetown – makes them deserving of environmental merit awards.

Essex County Greenbelt Association in Essex: Now in its 40th year, the Essex County Greenbelt Association is a leader in environmental conservation. With only six staff members and a small army of volunteers, Greenbelt has demonstrated record land-saving activities in the past two years – protecting 844 acres in 1999 and executing 22 projects in 2000. This year it expects to surpass a milestone of having protected over 10,000 acres in Essex County. Greenbelt has forged a regional vision of environmental quality and protection through the development of "greenbelts" connecting river, trail and other natural corridors. It achieves this through a model approach on land conservation, which features collaboration with many diverse stakeholders, including local citizens and landowners, municipal boards, state agencies, developers, businesses, environmental groups and non-profit organizations. The Greenbelt Association often serves as a financial bridge, providing quick response to save sensitive lands that might otherwise be lost due to time constraints.

Neponset River Watershed Association's Citizen Water Monitoring Network of Canton: The NRWA's Citizen Water Monitoring Network is a trained group of volunteers who collect water samples to provide baseline data and identify point and non-point pollution sources along the Neponset River. The program has become the primary source of water quality data used to guide the activities of Massachusetts environmental agencies, the Boston Harbor Watershed Team and in developing the 305(b) report for the Neponset River Watershed used by MA-DEP. The volunteer program has prompted millions of dollars of remediation activities and has led to the attainment of "fishable/swimmable" standards for an additional 80 miles of Neponset waterways since 1994. Among the monitoring network's specific accomplishments relating to its overall "fishable/swimmable" goal for the Neponset: remediation of leaking MWRA sewer lines in Milton Lower Mills, a major fecal coliform source into the estuary; repair of leaking sewers in Norwood; and separation of sewer-storm drain cross connections on the lower Neponset River.


Business, Industry, Trade or Professional Organizations

Stephen Cowell, Sun Power Electric in Westborough: Stephen Cowell is a national leader in the field of energy conservation and renewable power. Over 20 years ago, he recognized the need for energy conservation, so he created the Conservation Services Group Inc., a not-for-profit energy services company that has provided energy conservation services to over one million customers. In 1998, technological advances and electric utility restructuring, combined to create a unique opening to advance the use of solar power. Cowell seized the opportunity, founded Sun Power Electric, and built solar power plants in North Dartmouth, MA; Middletown, RI; and several other locations. Customers can now purchase the power through Sun Power's "ReGen" product (which is available to New England consumers) and Green Mountain's retail products. Sun Power Electric, a division of CSG, is the first all-solar utility. Cowell's vision in creating CSG and Sun Power will continue to reap benefits for our society for many years to come.

Individuals

Ansel B. Chaplin of Orleans: For 15 years, Ansel Chaplin has led the board of directors of the Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts, a group of 23 regional and local land trusts that have banded together to preserve open space on the Cape. Ansel, who is retiring this month as the Compact's first and only president, was the person who worked to get the group launched in 1986. As a lawyer, he also provided free legal service. He also co-founded the Truro Conservation Trust in1981 and has served on it for 20 years, protecting open space in Truro, a small Cape community that is mostly within the National Seashore. Largely because of his efforts, the Truro Conservation Trust has preserved 251 acres, many with innovative acquisition strategies developed by Chaplin. He is also active in Friends of the Cape Cod National Seashore, the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown and the Truro Neighborhood Association.

Judy Fittery of Tewksbury; Patricia Pelosi and Susan Sinclair of Wilmington: Judy Fittery, Patricia Pelosi and Susan Sinclair have all contributed enormously to the cleanup of uncontrolled hazardous waste on several parcels in their neighborhoods. Judy Fittery, one of the closest residents to Rocco's Landfill in Tewksbury, has worked actively for years to get this site investigated and cleaned up. She has written letters, met with politicians, reporters and residents, and helped environmental workers with her own pictures and research. Susan Sinclair and Patricia Pelosi, who live close to the McDonald Road cleanup site, have served as community representatives for removal actions there, acting as liaisons between residents and the state and federal environmental agencies. The three individuals spend many hours on communication action groups. Judy formed Townspeople Organized Against Illness and Contamination to represent the communities in dealing with the hazardous waste sites and regulatory agencies. All three are also involved with the National Organization of County and City Health Officials to make use of a federal grant for environmental education and awareness. The three individuals have shown that through hard work, commitment and perseverance, citizens can affect government action.

Roger Frymire of Cambridge: Roger Frymire faithfully kayaks the Charles and Mystic Rivers, serving as the day-to-day eyes, ears and nose of the environmental community. By carefully observing the quality of the water flowing from pipes into these rivers, and through dogged research into the owners of the pipes, Roger has identified numerous illegal discharges, primarily of sewage, into the rivers. Many illicit discharges have been eliminated because of these efforts. Roger has also been effective at forming strong partnerships, both with the Charles River Watershed Association which gave him sampling materials and analyzed his samples, and with cities and towns which supplied him with critical information on discharge pipes. Roger is the only local citizen who regularly attends meetings of the Clean Charles 2005 Task Force, which is working to make the river fishable/swimmable by 2005. And, in a more unusual note, Roger recently documented his ability to detect coliform by smell at levels of half of that considered safe for swimming, and he suggested regulators be trained in this low-cost way of finding illicit discharges.

Elizabeth V. Sturcken of Boston: Massachusetts residents will be safer swimming at beaches this summer thanks to a new state law passed largely as a result of Elizabeth Sturcken's tireless work. Many beaches in Massachusetts are polluted by millions of gallons of sewage discharged after heavy rains. The Beaches Bill, signed last summer, requires that all beaches have uniform, health-based water quality standards, get tested weekly and post warnings when standards are violated. As founder and chair of the state chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, Elizabeth has fought hard for safer water at beaches, waging media campaigns, testifying before legislative committees and meeting with government officials. The success of the Beaches Bill is only one marker of Elizabeth's work to preserve our environment. She is active with many non-profit organizations. She is project manager for the Alliance for Environmental Innovation, a program that works with companies to create environmental change. She was president of Surfrider Foundation's national board for 2000 and is also a member of the Environmental League of Massachusetts and of the Coastal Advocacy Network.

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.