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Connecticut Citizens and Organizations Receive Prestigious Regional EPA Environmental Award

Release Date: 04/25/2012
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(Boston, Mass. – April 25, 2012) – Eleven environmental awards will be given to Connecticut environmental groups, individuals, businesses, nonprofit and government agencies today in Boston’s Faneuil Hall as EPA presented its annual Environmental Merit Awards for 2012.

The merit awards, recognizing valuable contributions to environmental awareness and problem solving, are a unique way that EPA can recognize individuals and groups that are making significant impacts on environmental quality in distinct ways.

Awarded by EPA since 1970, the merit awards 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 from across New England.

Awards were given in the following categories: individual; business (including professional organizations); local, state or federal government; and environmental, community, academia or nonprofit organization. Each year, EPA also may present lifetime achievement awards for individuals.

"Congratulations to all of our 2012 Environmental Merit Award recipients. These awards are close to my heart because they acknowledge the importance of environmental stewardship, said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. "As stewards, all of these recipients are making real and lasting differences in communities across our beautiful region. Whether it's finding innovative ways to safeguard our water resources or conserving the energy our communities use each day, each individual has advanced our mission to protect human health and the environment."

More information on all Environmental Merit Award Winners from this year and past years is available at: http://www.epa.gov/region1/ra/ema/index.html

The Environmental Merit Award Winners from Connecticut are:

Lifetime Achievement Environmental Merit Award:

Alan Buzzetti

For decades, Alan Buzzetti served as the heart and mind guiding Connecticut’s various efforts to eliminate lead poisoning, especially among children. In positions at the state Department of Public Health, rising from sanitarian to supervising environmental analyst, Alan managed and directed the state’s childhood lead poisoning prevention programs. But titles cannot explain the depth of his commitment to preventing lead poisoning. Alan has a rare ability to see the big programmatic picture as well as the details that make programs work. Alan oversaw Connecticut’s lead-poisoning-prevention funding by the EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He was instrumental in seeing that Connecticut became an authorized state for administering lead licensure and certification. This, in turn, allowed the state Department of Public Health to establish the Lead Environmental Management Unit, which eventually became the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention and Control Program under his tenure. Alan led the development of the state’s Strategic Plan to Eliminate Lead Poisoning and crafted state lead poisoning regulations, including regulations to require annual lead screenings for young children. Years before EPA and HUD offered courses in lead-safe work practices, he worked with the University of Connecticut to create this kind of course for his state, training thousands of workers. Alan also ensured that Connecticut became the institutional home of the EPA-funded New England Lead Coordinating Committee, a regional consortium of agencies working to eliminate lead poisoning. During his tenure, the committee launched its “Don’t Spread Lead” campaign for do-it-yourselfers including practices that have been adopted nationwide. Alan retired in 2009 but could not keep away from his life’s work. In 2010 he joined the Lead Action for Medicaid Primary Prevention Project, a federally funded healthy homes project. Alan’s dedication has truly made a difference to those trying to reduce lead poisoning.

Northeast Recycling Council, Inc.

The Northeast Recycling Council, Inc. works with its 10-member states that include New England, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania to support environmental and economic sustainability through source reduction, recycling, environmentally preferable purchasing and recycling market development. One example of its achievements is the Northeast Newspaper Publishers Agreement, a multi-year, multi-stakeholder initiative that led to newspaper publishers signing commitments to increase the use of recycled content newsprint, resulting in a demonstrated increase in minimum recycled content usage in the region. The Council also took the lead nationally in demonstrating the relationship between jobs, the economy and the recycling industry. It developed a methodology for conducting such an analysis and published Recycling Economic Information Study reports about the region in 2000 and updated it in 2009. In addition to this, the organization was the first to tackle the end-of-life management of electronics and collaborated with the Council of State Governments / Eastern Regional Conference to develop model regional electronics legislation, some of which has been adopted in a number of New England states. In other areas, the Council has staffed and supported the Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse that has published several significant studies; conducted the first research into how to safely collect and manage unwanted medications from the general public; worked with 32 towns in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware to promote source reduction, recycling and composting; delivered unique manure management workshops in New Hampshire, Vermont and New Jersey, including the development of a handbook and guidance document; and founded and hosts the sole national listserv dedicated to a discussion of environmentally preferable purchasing.

Individual Environmental Merit Award

Anthony Leiserowitz
Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, New Haven, Conn.
Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies has established a center dedicated to making sure people communicating about the environment know who their audience is and speak in a way that reaches them. Anthony founded the Yale Center for Environmental Communication, which tracks how people think about and understand the state of the environment. The center designs new ways to engage the public in environmental science and empowers teachers and other communicators to more effectively engage their audiences. For example, research by Anthony has identified “Global Warming’s Six Americas” – six unique audiences that each respond to the issue in very different ways, each requiring a tailored communication strategy. Anthony has also found that most Americans think of climate change as a risk only to far-away people and species. He found, though, that Americans become more concerned when they are informed about health risks. Among those using the center’s research are the White House, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the National Science Foundation, NASA and EPA. Anthony publishes the Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media, a source of climate reporting, analysis, and resources for journalists. And since most Americans get their news and information from local TV, Anthony is training broadcast meteorologists to integrate climate change into their broadcasts, making this issue relate to the lives of all Americans.

Kevin Taylor
Waterbury Development Corporation, Waterbury, Conn.

 Kevin Taylor, project manager at the Waterbury Development Corporation, built one of the region’s leading brownfields programs from the ground up in less than two years. This success was possible only through the talents of a trusted, inspiring individual. Born and bred in this once industrial city, Kevin studied architecture in college then moved back to Waterbury. At the Waterbury Development Corporation, he works to revitalize the city by redeveloping properties, including brownfields. Kevin addresses not one or two properties but dozens of properties at once. In 2008, he assembled a team to submit the city’s first-ever brownfields grant proposals with a bold mission of applying for every grant for which the city was eligible. Every one of the grants was funded and Waterbury won $1.2 million to assess brownfields and clean up two key parcels. Today, the city has assessed or cleaned up nearly 20 brownfield sites and has one of the most innovative brownfields programs in the region. Kevin succeeds in part by helping others envision creative ways to reuse buildings. He helped an organization dedicated to urban gardening envision the transformation of a brownfield into a community garden. He helped the Waterbury Police Athletic League to risk buying two brownfields properties to clean up as ball fields. And he inspired a leap of faith by an anti-poverty organization to see the potential of the former Waterbury Clock facility at North Square as a place for their programs and mixed-use redevelopment. Kevin helps community groups see the potential of brownfields, and then he helps them get the resources and support to finish the job.

Betsey Wingfield

Hartford, Conn.
Betsey Wingfield, who works in the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, led the way in establishing a consensus to come up with effective laws regulating stream flow. After six years without legislative support, Betsey and her staff, along with other interested parties, sought common ground in this divisive undertaking. In January 2011, the group asked EPA New England to point them in the right direction. Soon after, the group took ownership of the process with an impressive display of commitment, creativity and sheer determination over 10 months. In November, the group announced that the state legislature had approved regulations proposed by the group. In the words of DEEP Commissioner Daniel Esty, “These new regulations are based on sound science and environmental needs, but offer a realistic, flexible and cost-effective means of accomplishing our water-related goals.” The regulations include rules governing the release of water from dams, a public process to assign rivers to one of four classes and special provisions to help balance human and ecological needs.

Enviro, Community, Academia & Nonprofit Environmental Merit Award

Goodwin College
East Hartford, Conn.
In 2005, Goodwin College announced dramatic plans to build a riverfront campus along Riverside Drive in East Hartford. With the help of EPA and other agencies, Goodwin created a new campus community with educational, economic, and environmental benefits for the region and beyond. The effort involved demolishing more than 30 above-ground oil tanks and other defunct industrial installations before redeveloping a formerly unusable industrial area. Late 2008, the college opened the 109,000 square-foot academic center. A year later, it rolled out its environmental studies degree program, which took advantage of access to the river and undeveloped flood plains for study of river ecology. In 2010, the Connecticut River Academy, an environmentally-themed magnet high school, also opened at the River Campus in a temporary space. The River Campus has grown into a cultural and educational hub. More than 10,000 people commute to campus each week, providing customers for local businesses. As of January, Goodwin had 526 employees and an annual payroll of $12.5 million. The college has more than doubled its workforce since 2006, not including new jobs at the magnet high school and an early childhood center. More than half of the 3,000 students at Goodwin are first-generation college students, with a student body that reflects the diversity of Hartford.

Long Island Sound Study
Citizens Advisory Committee

New Haven, Conn.
Curt Johnson and Nancy Seligson, Co-chairs
The volunteers of the Long Island Sound Study

Citizens Advisory Committee have helped bring together a unified group of people dedicated to improving water quality in the sound. This group includes volunteers from community organizations, businesses, educational organizations, environmental groups and local government. Together these groups developed “SoundVision,” a community blueprint for clean water, healthy habitats, and economically strong communities. Before forming “Sound Vision,” citizen volunteers reviewed the existing Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for Long Island Sound and tracked what had already been spent protecting and restoring the sound, looking at program outcomes. In addition, members of the advisory committee were surveyed and workshops were held with Connecticut and New York residents. The result was the two-year citizens’ action plan that includes themes and goals for the sound. It also includes steps to achieve those results, ways to measure success, and an outreach strategy to connect with the entire Long Island Sound community. Through their work, and under the leadership of co-chairs Curt Johnson and Nancy Seligson, the citizens helped bring about a united community of diverse interests to protect and restore Long Island Sound.

New England Rain Garden – Training Team
Amy Boyajian, Caitrin Higgins, Jillian Thompson, Amy Rowe (Rutgers Cooperative Extension); Michael Dietz, Chet Arnold (UConn NEMO Program)
Stormwater pollution is the number one contributor to nutrient loadings that lead to water quality impairments. Most storms in the region require more low-tech, decentralized cost-effective solutions. Rain gardens provide an innovative pollution prevention answer to addressing stormwater challenges, and they foster new partnerships and capacity in the community. Rain garden trainings address a range of problems from flooding and stormwater to combined sewer overflows and have provided skills towards Green Jobs, particularly in low income and minority neighborhoods in partnership with such groups as Groundwork Providence that train and potentially provide jobs in the landscaping area. The Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program-Rain Garden Training Team and the University of Connecticut Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials Program collaborated with EPA, cities and community partners in New England over the past two years to provide two-day training to residents, watershed and neighborhood groups, youth and staff from Groundwork Providence, from low-income and minority communities in the function, design, construction and maintenance of rain gardens for stormwater management. They also have worked in partnership with community partners, mayors, departments of public works, and park staff from the cities of Bridgeport, Worcester and Hartford; neighborhood and community groups such as Groundwork Providence, watershed groups, the State of Connecticut, the Massachusetts DEPs, Providence Housing Authority, Blackstone Stormwater Coalition and universities. Over 500 people have been trained, and rain gardens have been installed at the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, the Magnet School in Hartford, Roger Williams Park Botanical Center, the Manton Heights Housing Development in Providence, the Worcester Youth Center, and the VA Central Western MA Healthcare system Center in Leeds, Massachusetts.

Governmental Environmental Merit Award

Connecticut DPH, Drinking Water Section

Hartford, Conn.

Staff and managers of the Drinking Water Programs in Connecticut and Vermont, along with their partners, played an impressive role in responding to the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene which slammed into New England last August. Although their stories were different, both states faced daunting challenges considering the extent of potential problems relating to hundreds of water systems and the safety of public drinking water. In Connecticut, about 770,000 customers, including public water systems, lost power after trees knocked down power lines. Water systems serving large populations were for the most part ready with emergency generators, but small water systems often stopped running, creating a risk of contamination. Employees of the CT Department of Public Health had to work quickly and intensively to determine if hundreds of water systems were operating and if not, what they needed to start back up. Because of the many small systems that lost pressure, the Drinking Water Program in CT DPH  had to expeditiously issue and manage 137 boil water advisories affecting more than 16,000 people. All of this was accomplished because of clear guidance and constant communication with the water sector, local officials, and the public.  In Vermont, rising rivers washed out roads and left towns isolated. Much of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, including the Water Supply Division, was literally under water, with 90 percent of its files and computers lost or destroyed. Helping impacted water systems became a monumental task. Despite the communication challenges, the staff of VT DEC persevered, finding ways to contact and assist the public water supplies impacted by the storm. Staff from the Drinking Water Program used home computers and personal cell phones, often calling from ad-hoc meetings in muddy parking lots. With key and timely assistance from Vermont Rural Water Association, the staff reached out to over a hundred water systems in the impacted areas. In the end, 30 public water supply systems, serving more than 16,000 people, were put on boil water orders and effectively managed throughout the water crisis.  What made these state responses truly outstanding was the way dedicated drinking water program employees continued to work long hours in difficult conditions, despite personal losses. Despite the devastation, within a few short weeks the vast majority of water systems were back to normal operations. The dedication of these Drinking Water Programs to ensure the safety of public drinking water for the citizens of Connecticut and Vermont, even in difficult times, was truly unprecedented.

Business, Industry, Trade or Professional Environmental Merit Award

Ethan Allen Operations, Inc.
Danbury, Conn.
Ethan Allen, a manufacturer of hardwood furniture in Orleans and Beecher Falls, Vermont, is a working example of what happens when a company brings  business together with community involvement, sustainable forestry practices and environmental leadership. As Chairman and President M. Farooq Kathwari said, “We are a strong American brand with global reach.” At the local level, the company reduced air pollutant emissions of the last 10 years by 95 percent, and 234,800 pounds. The company’s commitment to using more eco-friendly chemicals in its finishes has reduced air pollution and hazardous waste generation. Ethan Allen Operations also works to maintain sound relationships with suppliers to increase productivity while reducing waste and emissions. A Green Suppliers Network improvement lets Ethan Allen improve the environment while still staying focused on business economy. On a larger level, Ethan Allen leads the way in environmental, health, and safety standards, working to integrate business objectives while ensuring the safety of employees and protecting the environment. The company’s efforts in New England have provided a model for its factories in North Carolina, New Jersey, Mexico, and Honduras. As a leader in sustainable furniture manufacturing, Ethan Allen is known for its quality products and positive business culture.

Greenwich Hospital
Greenwich, Conn.
Thomas Lazzaro, John Huber

Last year, the EPA New England assistance group started looking for hospitals that had examples of rain gardens and other sustainable landscaping. EPA found two New England hospitals that were not only early adopters of sustainable landscaping in a healthcare setting, but had both worked with EPA to promote sustainable landscaping at other New England hospitals. Kent Hospital in Warwick, Rhode Island and Greenwich Hospital in Greenwich, Connecticut, gave freely of their time and expertise over the last year, educating hospitals on how to design gardens while also managing stormwater through sustainable landscaping practices. To address stormwater runoff in New England, Kent Hospital and Greenwich Hospital developed healing rain gardens. These natural landscapes help reduce pollution from stormwater while connecting patients to a healthy environment. The leadership of these providers in developing dynamic green solutions is an example of how sustainability reaches every corner of our society. These hospitals have proven to be leaders in healing garden development. They organize tours, present at conferences and reach the larger public through media programs. The early adoption of sustainable landscaping is a practical solution to satisfy stormwater compliance issues, LEED certification standards and outdoor aesthetics. These hospitals have strengthened their regional identities as healthcare providers through low impact design and innovative leadership.

More information on EPA’s Environmental Merit Awards in New England (http://www.epa.gov/region1/ra/ema/index.html)

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