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Connecticut Citizens Receive Earth Day Honors with Prestigious Regional EPA Environmental Award

Release Date: 04/22/2008
Contact Information: Paula Ballentine, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – April 22, 2008) - Two Connecticut citizens, one innovative government program and one business from the Nutmeg State will be honored today in Boston’s Faneuil Hall as EPA presents its annual Environmental Merit Awards for 2008.

Given out 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 77 nominations from across New England.

“Our Environmental Merit Awards are among the highest honors EPA can bestow to recognize environmental accomplishments,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA’s New England Office. “I offer my gratitude to these citizens for their extraordinary contributions in protecting our shared environment. Their work reflects the best attributes of New Englanders, working to find solutions to tough environmental issues.”

The winners from Connecticut were among 38 from across New England. Awards were given in the categories of individual; business (including professional organizations); local, state or federal government; and environmental, community, academia or nonprofit organization. Also, each year EPA may present lifetime achievement awards for individuals. The Environmental Merit Award Winners from Connecticut are:

Individual Environmental Merit Award:
Arthur Bogen
Down to Earth Consultants

Arthur Bogen’s work in the field of Brownfields reflects the kind of commitment that can transform corners, communities and whole regions of New England. In 1996, Arthur helped found the Naugatuck Valley Brownfields Pilot, the first regional organization in Connecticut designed to help communities facing difficult brownfields issues. With Arthur’s guidance, this pilot provided millions of dollars in funding to towns and cities in the region. With this success, Arthur was asked to manage a grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection for many sites that had old clock towers with radium and asbestos issues. Arthur also established a list to help towns and cities prioritize brownfields sites. Arthur’s perseverance showed that a site with multiple environmental and socioeconomic problems, even one in a distressed city, can be successfully redeveloped. Officials and citizens in many towns have come to rely on Arthur’s honest style in dealing with difficult sites. When Arthur is not writing, speaking or consulting on the environment, he is working with disadvantaged youth, helping them prepare for careers in related fields. Those nominating Arthur said “He has taught us that brownfields should be embraced and not disparaged.” Such a small lesson can have big implications on the environment.

Individual Environmental Merit Award:
Anthony Irving
Eightmile Wild and Scenic Coordinating Committee

For 11 years, Anthony Irving has fought to protect the Eightmile River and its watershed in Eastern Connecticut. One hundred and fifty miles of rivers, streams and brooks winding through the Connecticut River Valley, an area of exceptional natural beauty and numerous interconnected ecosystems, has been protected largely thanks to Anthony’s efforts. As chair of the Eightmile Wild and Scenic Coordinating Committee, Anthony led the group in putting in place recommendations made by a study group, including working to get a Wild and Scenic designation from Congress and laying out plans to manage the river and its surrounding lands. Anthony united multiple communities in this shared vision and worked with community groups, towns and environmentalists to get the recognition. In 2007, his work culminated with passage of House Resolution 986, the Wild and Scenic River Act. This was the first step to ensuring protection of this area.

Local, State or Federal Governmental Environmental Merit Award:
Connecticut Department of Public Health
Ron Skomro, Brian Toal, Kristen Day

Three employees in Connecticut’s Department of Public Health set out to protect school children in their state and ended up transforming the way art clay is labeled and sold. Ron Skomro, Brian Toal and Kristen Day of the state Department of Public Health learned through careful investigation that some students in Connecticut were being exposed through their art classes to asbestos, which is linked to lung diseases. They found that clay made with talc, which contains asbestos, was being sold and used in many schools and institutions in the state. The department told schools to do inventories and work with suppliers to eliminate with talc. One major clay supplier voluntarily agreed to stop shipping art clay with talc and to exchange previously sold clay. The DPH asked the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission to review the issue of talc in art clay. As a result, the Art and Creative Materials Institute, which works with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, told its members it can no longer sell talc-containing clay with the “non-toxic label.”

Business, Industry and Professional Organizations Environmental Merit Award
Connecticut Water and Wastewater Agency Response Networks (WARNS)

About 1,500 public water supply systems were hurt by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the south. New England has recently faced flooding that threatened the safety of our own supplies. The New England State Water and Wastewater Response Networks involve utilities, associations and states establishing mutual aid programs in each state. These programs will allow groups to exchange information and work together when an emergency hits. Based on lessons learned, the federal government recognizes timely responses must happen first at the local and state levels. Utilities helping utilities in mutual aid is clearly the most expeditious way to deal with water emergencies. When Bethel, Maine lost its water supply in a landslide, Auburn’s Water District came to its aid with staff and tractors to build a temporary impoundment. This case study will now be played out throughout New England as mutual aid programs start up in each state. No other part of the country took on the challenge of simultaneously establishing response networks in all states. Because of this progress, New England was designated a national pilot to develop the first Inter-State WARN.

More Information: Environmental Merit Awards (epa.gov/ne/ra/ema)