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EPA Commends Environmental Achievers in Puerto Rico

Release Date: 05/18/2006
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(San Juan, P.R.) In celebration of Earth Day, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today honored ten individuals for their outstanding efforts to protect the environment in Puerto Rico. Regional Administrator Alan J. Steinberg presented EPA’s Environmental Quality Awards in a ceremony held at Interamerican University.

“These remarkable winners are catalysts for environmental change in local communities,” said Regional Administrator Alan J. Steinberg. “Their exceptional efforts demonstrate that by reducing waste and preserving our precious natural resources, each of us can make great strides in improving the environment.”

EPA selects Environmental Quality Award winners from non-profit environmental and community groups, individual citizens, educators, business organizations and members of the news media, as well as from federal, state, local or tribal governments and agencies. The honor is given to those individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions to improving the environment in EPA Region 2, which covers New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and seven federally-recognized Indian Nations. The Agency receives nominations for the awards from both inside and outside EPA. For more information about the Environmental Quality Awards in EPA Region 2, go to http://www.epa.gov/region02/eqa/

2006 ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY AWARD WINNERS

Environmental Education
¡Cuidado con los arrecifes!
¡Cuidado con los arrecifes! Is a coral reef outreach initiative aimed at young adults in Puerto Rico, the result of a collaboration between the Consultores Educativos Ambientales, the Fundacion de Conservacion Marina de Culebra and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. ¡Cuidado con los arrecifes! created the first educational resources on reef ecosystems specifically directed toward this age group, a comic book and poster series describing reef ecosystems and how human activities affect reefs. The materials have been distributed at schools, marinas, dive shops and fishing communities.

Instituto 2000
Instituto 2000, a program of the University of Puerto Rico Science and Engineering Center, uses environmental issues to teach investigative skills to over 500 students, from elementary school to high school. Previous activities have included cultivating gardens, planting trees in deforested areas and working with the San Juan Bay Estuary Program on an invasive species project. Through environmental problem-solving, Instituto 2000 promotes cooperation and analytical skills in students and teachers alike.

Interamerican University of Puerto Rico – San German Campus
Center for Education, Conservation and Research (CECIA-UIPR)
CECIA-UIPR was a key partner in providing training, education and support for community leaders on improving the operation and administration of small drinking water systems. The program focused on twenty communities in two municipalities, Patillas and Caguas. CECIA-UIPR also provided support to develop water infrastructure and increase regulatory compliance in other small systems throughout Puerto Rico. These initiatives have significantly improved drinking water and protected public health in Puerto Rico’s most isolated communities. CECIA-UIPR graduated its first class of 24 operators and administrators in May 2005.

Federal, State, Local or Tribal Government or Agency
Municipio de Bayamon
Municipio de Bayamon is a community on the forefront of environmental protection. The city recently developed an ecologically responsible golf course, the only such facility in Puerto Rico with the primary objective of serving low and moderate income people, on a 11-acre site that was previously occupied by an open-earth garbage dump. Bayamon, in partnership with the private sector, also opened a Center for Deposit and Transportation of Scrap Metal. The Center, which accepts an average of 1,500 tons of metal each month free of charge, helps to address the serious environmental problem of illegal dumping on the island.

Honorable William Miranda Marin
Municipio de Caguas
William Miranda Marin, Mayor of Caguas, Puerto Rico, launched a comprehensive environmental protection program to preserve land and water resources in his home city. His initiative included an urban redevelopment plan to improve the formerly polluted watershed, preservation of green spaces, an energy conservation program, and the development of a new botanic garden. William’s extensive environmental efforts are responsible for the city of Caguas earning the title of “Cleanest City in Puerto Rico” from the island’s Environmental Quality Board five years in a row.

United States Coast Guard
Air Station (CGAS) Borinquen
Led by LCDR Dennis Evans and Walter W. (Billy) Moore, Jr., CGAS Borinquen in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico serves as a model of environmental management for federal facilities. Over the past five years, CGAS Borinquen reduced hazardous waste generation by 81%, diverted over 180,000 pounds of recyclable materials from the solid waste system, and integrated solar power into its infrastructure. Current projects include installing waterless urinals on base, saving 80,000 gallons of potable water per unit each year, as well as replacing standard low hot water heaters with on-demand water heaters, which use an average of 26% less electricity.

Individual Citizen
Fernando Abruna
A practicing architect and professor at the University of Puerto Rico’s School of Architecture, Dr. Fernando Abruna is a well-known expert on sustainable building in the Caribbean. He designed the non-polluting Absent House, a widely visited landmark and educational structure in Puerto Rico that satisfies its own energy and water needs using only the sun, wind and rain. As an environmental advocate, Dr. Abruna’s efforts were essential in establishing the Urban Forest of the New Millennium in 1996, where the last 400 acres of forest in the San Juan metro area are preserved.

Non-Profit Organization, Environmental or Community Group
Amigos de Amona
Since 1998, Mona Island (also known as Amona), a 13,638-acre wildlife refuge located southwest of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, has had a friend in the Amigos de Amona. The Amigos, a group of forty volunteers, conduct beach cleanups twice a year on Mona Island, home to many rare and endangered species. In the future, the Amigos hope to install compost restrooms on the island for visitors. Additionally, they are working on an environmental education curriculum, which will eventually form part of a lecture series to be given at schools throughout Puerto Rico.

Press & Media
Tere Marichal Lugo
Tere Marichal Lugo is a playwright and actress who brings her passion for environmental protection to a large audience through the weekly children’s television program, “La Casa de Maria Chuzema,” which airs on the PBS affiliate in Puerto Rico. Tere plays the title character, presenting various topics related to nature and wildlife in a creative format. As Maria Chuzema, Tere has addressed such varied topics as saving energy, water conservation, and the endangered Puerto Rican parrot. She also demonstrates art projects that can be made with recycled materials.

Susan Soltero
Emmy award winner Susan Soltero is an environmental reporter for Las Noticias on Univision’s WLII-TV. A National Weather Association certified meteorologist, she has anchored the local weather report since 1992 and produces a daily segment on environmental protection, “Susan en su Ambiente.” Susan is also the author of “Manaties de Puerto Rico,” an illustrated children’s book about the manatees that inhabit the Caribbean Sea. One of Puerto Rico’s most widely-recognized public figures, her work has done more to increase environmental awareness on the island.

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