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EPA Region 2 Administrator Jane M. Kenny Honors Environmental Achievements in New York

Release Date: 04/30/2002
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(#02031) New York, New York -- As part of the celebration of Earth Day, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2 Administrator Jane M. Kenny presented 17 awards today to New Yorkers for their outstanding contributions to a better environment and the protection of human health. Region 2 Administrator Kenny presented EPA’s Environmental Quality Awards and the President’s Environmental Youth Awards at a ceremony held today at EPA’s offices in Manhattan. Robert D. Yaro, President of the Regional Plan Association also spoke at today’s event.

“When you get right down to it, protecting the environment is a job for everybody. And it is a job for every day,” said EPA Region 2 Administrator Jane M. Kenny. “Whether it is a recycling paper or taking public transit or keeping the thermostat low in the winter, each of us makes decisions every day that have a direct impact on our environment.”

The Environmental Quality Awards are EPA’s way of taking its hat off to those who work the hardest to preserve and protect our environment and public health. The President’s Environmental Youth Awards recognize the outstanding environmental achievements of young people.

EPA Region 2 presents the Environmental Quality Awards annually to individuals, nonprofit groups, educators, business representatives, government officials and media representatives from New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who have made significant contributions to improving the quality of the environment in the region. Winners are chosen by a panel of EPA employees who review nominations submitted from inside and outside the Agency.

The Winners of the 2002 Environmental Quality Award in New York State are:

INDIVIDUAL CITIZEN

Christine Foreman

Bronx, New York

Christine Foreman founded the Seton Falls Park Preservation Coalition in 1992 in opposition to a proposal to pave over this 39-acre park in the Eastchester section of The Bronx. Since that initial victory, the Coalition has worked with various groups and government agencies to restore the park to its former natural grandeur, increase educational opportunities and revitalize its ecosystems and habitat. The Coalition secured government grants to restore the park’s marshlands, forest and waterfall. In addition, the Coalition was able to obtain grants to refurbish the park’s playgrounds.

Peggy Godfrey

New Rochelle, New York

Bob Lebensold

New Rochelle, New York

Frank Mancuso

Millbrook, New York

These three citizens have waged a long battle to get a former New Rochelle Con Edison substation property cleaned up. In 1981, the substation was destroyed by a fire causing a further spread of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, and dioxins, onto the property and into adjacent Echo Bay. The site is within a waterfront area slated for redevelopment, and their efforts have made government agencies and officials aware of the environmental concerns there so they would continue to take steps to address them. Mr. Mancuso even paid for testing to prove the presence of pollutants at the site. His findings, along with the persistent efforts of today's award winners, helped persuade the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to order Con Edison to clean up the site and dredge part of the bay. They have continued their efforts and at this time three additional Echo Bay sites are being tested for pollutants.

Rich Kassel

New York, New York

While biking to his job at the Natural Resources Defense Council, Mr. Kassel decided he had enough of breathing the dirty exhaust from city buses. In 1992, he launched the Dump Dirty Diesels Campaign, which was focused on getting the Metropolitan Transit Authority to replace its diesel buses with cleaner technologies. A state study found that more than half of the street-level particulate emissions in midtown Manhattan came from diesels even though gasoline vehicles outnumber them by 10 to one. The Campaign eventually won several battles: getting New York State environmental bond act money for clean-fuel buses; getting state tax incentives for alternative-fuel programs; negotiating a 500-bus compressed-natural-gas program and helping persuade EPA and two administrations to support a new diesel rule. His greatest victory may have been negotiating with the MTA to secure a fleet-wide Clean-Fuel Bus Program, which will be complete in 2004. In addition, the MTA agreed to switch to low-sulfur fuel and retrofit buses with particulate traps. Once the old buses are retired, particulate emissions from the city’s fleet will have been reduced by 90 percent.

Debra Smith
Steve Kopp

Paducah, Kentucky

Ms. Smith and Mr. Kopp are waste project manager and technical support manager, respectively, for WESKEM, in Paducah, Kentucky, a Department of Energy contractor. In September 2000, Ms. Smith arranged for a shipment of large PCB capacitors to be disposed of in a high-temperature incinerator, as required by regulations. They later discovered that due to errors at both the disposal facility and at the transportation company, the capacitors ended up in a New York State landfill, which is a violation. Their persistence led to an analysis of how it occurred and an effort to correct the situation. The waste was eventually removed from the landfill and sent for proper disposal. In addition, operational problems were corrected at two major hazardous waste facilities.

FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL OR TRIBAL GOVERNMENT OR AGENCY

Ellen Ilardo

East Aurora, New York

As a Water Quality Technician with the Erie County Soil and Water Conservation District, Ms. Ilardo has raised awareness about water quality and stewardship regarding the Scajaquada Creek watershed. She developed an advisory council of citizens, government officials and technical advisors to develop a community-based watershed management plan. She also helped organized a group of students and volunteers to clean up and stabilize the banks of Cazenovia Creek and a beach sweep along the Niagara River. She is also active in the Great Lakes Student Summit and the Earth Day Steering Committee in western New York, and edits a conservation newsletter distributed in Erie County.

Paul Thiesing

Valhalla, New York

Combining his training as an illustrator and his job as a New York City watershed inspector, Mr. Thiesing created educational materials to raise consciousness about watershed protection. He began working for the city’s Department of Environmental Protection 10 years ago as a watershed inspector, looking for polluters as well as trying to make people who live near the city’s reservoir system aware of the need to protect this vital drinking water supply and natural resource. He provided artwork for a “ Watersheds” poster that succinctly and vividly makes the point that what happens upstream affects water quality and wildlife downstream. He also was instrumental in the staging of an unusual art exhibit at the Hammond Museum in New Salem, New York, focusing on the city’s water-supply system. Now with the DEP’s Office of Public Affairs, Mr. Thiesing is creating innovative outreach materials and student lesson plans about conservation.

Watershed Advisory Committee #4

Westchester County Department of Planning

White Plains, New York

This committee is composed of volunteers and professional staff from the six municipalities within the Mamaroneck River, the Sheldrake River and Mamaroneck Harbor watersheds: Harrison, Mamaroneck Town, Mamaroneck Village, New Rochelle, Scarsdale and White Plains. In January 2001, the group released a watershed management plan, which was then adopted by the municipalities. The six municipalities have pledged to work together and with Westchester County to improve water quality in the area, which is part of the larger Long Island Sound watershed. Funding for restoration projects has been secured and design plans have begun. In addition to restoration work, the management plan called for public outreach efforts and revisions to municipal ordinances.

ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION

New York State Integrated Pest Management Program

New York State Agricultural Experiment Station

Geneva, New York

This program develops and teaches pest-control methods that are cost-effective and pose minimal risks to human health and the environment. The program was created in 1985 to work with the agriculture industry, but in 1994, it added a community component. Today, it takes on everything from house mice to oriental fruit moths

to tomato canker. The program is involved in research as well as education and participates in multi-state, national and even international efforts at sustainable pest management. The program produces brochures for homeowners on lawn care, advises non-agricultural businesses such as golf courses and conducts workshops. It also funds a variety of projects to further scientific knowledge about pest management – from a web page for vegetable farmers to research on pest-control techniques. Due in large part to the program’s efforts, nearly 90 percent of New York farmers now use some form of integrated pest management.

Howard Warren

Trinity School

New York, New York

Mr. Warren, who teaches science to grades one through four at the Trinity School in Manhattan, has created a number of engaging and creative environmental lessons for his students. Each year, he brings students and their parents to Dead Horse Bay in the Gateway National Recreation Area to clean up the shore, collect fish for study, test the water chemistry and study artifacts. First graders create a tidal pool tank and learn about Cleopatra, the science room’s pet python; second graders build hydroponic gardens and a model of the New York City water system; third graders discuss over-packaging and try to build a biodegradable package that will protect an egg from a fifty-foot fall; and fourth graders learn about the marine and tidal ecosystems with lessons based on their field trip to Dead Horse Bay.

BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY

Consolidated Edison

New York, New York

Keyspan Energy Delivery

Brooklyn, New York

Master Plumbers Council of New York City

Forest Hills, New York

Plumbing Foundation of New York

New York, New York

These two utilities and two trade associations took it upon themselves to work with the government to reduce the public health threat from mercury. They helped New York City pass a law last year banning the use of mercury-containing gauges for gas-pressure testing in buildings. They then helped organize an outreach program for plumbers and an exchange program where mercury gauges were traded for safe, non-mercury ones. All of these services were provided to plumbers free-of-charge by Con Edison and Keyspan. As a result, 73.5 pounds of mercury were collected and 59 non-mercury gauges were distributed, lessening the threat of accidental spills. Seeing the success of the program, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is now replicating this program statewide.

NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION, ENVIRONMENTAL OR COMMUNITY GROUP

Chenango County Environmental Management Council

Annual River Cleanup Project

Norwich, New York

Since 1996, the council has organized annual river cleanup days in Chenango County, New York. The yearly events have attracted nearly 100 volunteers, mostly from youth groups, who have removed tons of trash from the

Chenango, Unadilla and Otselic rivers. The council has recently expanded its efforts to include ponds and lakes. Working with virtually no budget, the volunteers have removed an estimated 25,000 pounds of metal, tires andtrash from 54 sites. The council was also able to get cleanup supplies donated, and coordinated with local agencies to get the collected trash taken away at no cost. In addition to cleaning the rivers, the project has raised community awareness about both the beauty and fragility of these invaluable natural resources in their own immediate area.

Scenic Hudson

Great River Sweep

Poughkeepsie, New York

For five years, Scenic Hudson has organized groups and individuals for a one-day trash cleanup and beautification effort along the shores of the Hudson River and its tributaries. The program began in 1998 as a result of a letter to Scenic Hudson from a second-grader who asked the group to help him do something to get the floating trash out of the river. The 2001 cleanup drew 3,600 volunteers to 146 cleanup sites along 200 miles of shoreline and collected over 50 tons of trash. Some groups shuttle among sites, picking up trash, while others kayak into the river itself to get at debris. Groups use the cleanup as the centerpiece for a range of other activities – from parades to hikes to educational activities. Over its five-year history, the cleanup has organized over 200 community groups – from children’s groups to the Coast Guard Auxiliary – to take a direct hand in the beautification of the Hudson.

Make the Road by Walking

Brooklyn, New York

This nonprofit group, based in Bushwick, Brooklyn, organized residents to improve the health and environment of their neighborhood. In weekly meetings at the group’s offices, residents discuss environmental problems in their neighborhood and how they will address them. The group successfully brought a class-action suit regarding New York City’s lead-paint law. It also persuaded the City’s Department of Health to begin a campaign against rodent infestation in Bushwick. The group forced owners of two vacant lots that were being used as illegal dumping grounds to clean up their properties. The group then converted one of those lots into a park – in an area ranked 17th of 18 community planning districts in Brooklyn for amount of park space per resident.

New York Restoration Project

New York, New York

Founded by singer Bette Midler, the Project created a public-private partnership to revitalize open space, community gardens and neglected parks throughout New York City, particularly in low-income areas. To date, the group has removed over 75,000 tons of garbage from cleanup sites, reclaimed 375 acres of neglected parkland, rescued nearly 50 community gardens and served 5,000 children with educational and recreational programs. In 2001, among other accomplishments, the group completed construction of a barge that will hold a community boathouse in Swindler Cove Park on the Harlem River; opened a café in Fort Tryon Park that will funnel all revenues back to the park; completed a Harlem River Waterfront Development Plan; and established the New York Garden Trust, which will own and maintain 40 community gardens that the Restoration Project bought from the city in 1999.

Global Action Plan

Rockland County Sustainable Lifestyle Campaign

Woodstock, New York

This neighbor-to-neighbor program, founded by the Global Action Plan for the Earth, encourages families to work together to adopt environmentally friendly lifestyles. Households in a particular community form “EcoTeams” that meet regularly with a trained volunteer coach. The households work to reduce waste, buy “eco- wise” products and use less water and energy. At the end of the four-month program, the EcoTeams invite other neighbors to participate. Since March 2000, 70 EcoTeams consisting of a total of 350 households have formed in 18 Rockland County communities. On average, participants reduced their garbage by 34 percent, water use by 28 percent, energy use by 10 percent and transportation-related fuel use by 15 percent. The average cost savings per household was $324.

W. Haywood Burns Environmental Education Center

Albany, New York

This group in Albany’s Arbor Hill community teaches students and residents about local environmental issues and natural resources. Using the nearby Tivoli Preserve as an outdoor classroom, the center organizes educational nature trips for students from the low-income, minority community of North Albany with the goal of teaching them how to protect their urban environment. The center’s Community Health Committee educates residents about the environmental impacts of public health decisions and about managing asthma. The center’s Community Planning and Outreach Program helps gather opinions from residents with the goal of influencing public policy.

PRESIDENT’S ENVIRONMENTAL YOUTH AWARDS

First Place Winner

Akwesasne Freedom School

Wetland Restoration Project

Rooseveltown, New York

The sixth, seventh and eighth graders at this school did more than just learn about wetlands – they went out and restored a 50-acre degraded wetland on their school’s property. With assistance from the Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment, the students got involved in surveying the degraded area, designing the ponds and planting vegetation. They decided to design the pond in the shape of a turtle, which is an important symbol in Mohawk culture and is representative of the entire planet. The students also created a list of culturally significant plants to place around the wetlands. Today, wildlife have returned the wetlands and use it regularly, the vegetation is flourishing and the black ash trees – in forty years’ time – will provide material for Mohawk basketmakers.

Honorable Mention

Paul Corsello

Pittsford Mendon High School

Pittsford, New York

For his Eagle Scout community-service project, Paul Corsello organized a troop of scouts to clean up the area around a historic canal lock in his hometown of Pittsford, New York The lock was one of 72 along the Erie Canal route between Buffalo and Albany, which allowed ships to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. Paul also gathered historical information about the lock and created an educational pamphlet with old photos showing the lock in use. He then put the brochure on a computer disc and donated it to the town so it could print additional copies in the future.