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

Release Date: 04/22/2008
Contact Information: Paula Ballentine, (617) 918-1027

(Boston -- April 22, 2008) One individual and four Maine groups were honored today in Boston’s Faneuil Hall as EPA presented the 2008 Environmental Merit Awards. Recognizing significant contributions to environmental awareness and problem solving, the Maine awardees included three for efforts by local, state or federal governments, two for business, industry and professional organizations, one for work by environmental/ community/academia/non-profit organizations and one lifetime achievement winner.

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 approximately 77 nominations from across New England.

“These 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. “The work of these individuals, organizations and businesses reflect the best attributes of New Englanders, working to find solutions to environmental issues. I offer my gratitude for their extraordinary contributions in protecting the environment.”

The winners from Maine 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. Environmental Merit Award Winners from Maine are:

Lifetime Achievement Environmental Merit Award:
Pat Baldwin

Over the last three decades, conversion of forested land into developed land and septic systems have increased water runoff into Mousam Lake in southern Maine to the point where there are problems with phosphorus, excessive algae and decreased water clarity. In 1998 the state designated Mousam Lake as impaired for aquatic life support. Pat Baldwin, a lifelong resident of Mousam, began collecting water samples from the lake in the 70s, analyzing the samples at Demers Laboratory in Springvale, where she was co-owner. She observed the disturbing trends, including ecoli that led to the closure of the town beach on occasion. This closure drew public attention and launched Pat into her role as an advocate for the lake. “Since the lake can’t speak for itself, I feel the need to speak on its behalf,” she has said more than once. Pat’s passion galvanized other residents to act. She attended and spoke at many of the workshops, known as septic socials. And she created a 16-page booklet called “Mousam Lake Needs Your Help.” This booklet is now being used by other lake associations. Pat has also monitored the lake’s loon population and has taken part in the annual loon count for Maine Audubon Society. Other lake associations have formed, inspired by Pat’s work on Mousam Lake and after a decade of restoration work, Mousam Lake has attained water quality standards. This was possible largely because of Pat’s persistent advocacy and lifetime devotion to the lake.

Local, State or Federal Governmental Environmental Merit Award:
Maine Clean School Bus Team
Maine Department of Environmental Protection

In 2003, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection worked with the Maine Department of Education and Maine Association of Pupil Transportation to establish the nation’s first program to retrofit school buses to reduce harmful diesel emissions. The organizations did this by encouraging less idling, more use of cleaner fuels and engine retrofits. Their model program inspired similar efforts throughout New England. The Maine Clean School Bus program was one of 17 proposals selected in 2003 from 120 projects for an EPA grant for upgrading school buses. This half million dollar grant helped 21 mostly rural districts establish bulk purchasing for diesel oxidation catalysts to retrofit 266 buses, reducing harmful particulate matter by about 20 percent. The state matched by replacing 180 buses and then retrofitting more than 400 more buses. The team was able to beyond their initial grant proposal and to create a program that has been a model for the region and the nation.

Local, State or Federal Governmental Environmental Merit Award:
Maine Children’s Water Festival Planning Committee
Wendy Garland, Rob Sanford, Irwin Novak, Linda Woodard, Sarah Plummer, Lynne Richard, Beth Pratt and Susan Breau-Kelley

Eight members of the Maine Children’s Water Festival Planning Committee are being recognized for their work in the annual festival, which educates more than 800 Maine children about environmental issues related to water. This festival, in place since 1993, educates students in a state that depends on clean water for drinking, fishing and tourism. The committee is made up of representatives from the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Portland Water District, the Maine Drinking Water Program, the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Maine Audubon Society and the University of Maine. All of the members of the committee directly teach children on water issues, using the festival as a chance to visit classrooms throughout the year. Today we recognize and thank Wendy Garland, Rob Sanford, Irwin Novak, Linda Woodard, Sarah Plummer, Lynne Richard, Beth Pratt and Susan Breau-Kelley.

Local, State or Federal Governmental Environmental Merit Award:
Maine Department of the Environmental Protection
Jean M. Firth

Jean Firth has led the way in developing brownfields in Maine by creating a strong program of environmental assessments and cleanups. Her work with small and sometimes isolated communities in rural Maine has been especially noteworthy. She developed straightforward materials to explain the state program and encourage communities to apply for grants. The results have included a cleanup of three generators at Generator House in Long Island, which will be replaced by a community center and town hall; the cleanup in Perry of the Sipayik Corner Store, which is owned by the Passamaquoddy Tribe; and the removal of asbestos from McCain’s Factory in Washburn. All three of these projects were in rural areas where even one contaminated property can cause problems for a community’s growth. Jean’s ability to understand the concerns of developers while keeping her eye on environmental concerns has let her make many “common sense” cleanup decisions that benefit the community. Jean’s dedication and ability to work with a wide range of stakeholders is key to her success.

Environmental, Community, Academia & Non-Profit Organization Environmental Merit Award:
Kennebunk-Kennebunkport (Maine) School District

Over the last year, the Kennebunk-Kennebunkport (Maine) School District improved the environment of its schools and at the same time it reduced operating costs. Tom Maines, Director of Operations, and Alyce Swan, Operations Administrative Assistant, led these efforts. Trained as an environmental science teacher, Maines recognized when he arrived in Kennebunk three years ago that reducing energy use could cut costs as well as greenhouse gas emissions. In the past year, the district put energy efficient lighting in all five of its building, reducing electric bills $50,000 per year. Two inefficient air handlers in a school were replaced to reduce bills another $15,000 and allow for better circulation of indoor air quality. In addition, the district received an EPA grant to upgrade the exhaust systems on 18 buses, which will increase fuel efficiency and reduce exhaust emissions by up to 90 percent. The district switched to green-certified cleaning products to minimize exposure to toxic products and last fall began composting in cafeterias. The compost, used by farmers, will save the school about $15,000 in disposal costs. Kennebunk Elementary was the first school in Maine to earn an Energy Star award and the Energy & Environmental Concerns Advisory team won a grant for a 5.6 kw photovoltaic array at the Middle School.

Business, Industry and Professional Organizations Environmental Merit Award:
Pottle’s Transport

New England businesses rely on truckers to carry goods, but truckers create half the emissions pollution in New England. When EPA founded SmartWay Transport Partnership in 2004, Pottle’s Transportation jumped on board, quickly learning that saving fuel not only helps the environment, but also the bottom line. New technologies used by Pottle’s earned it the best fuel efficiency score possible from EPA. The 139 trucks in Pottle’s fleet have reduced emissions by about 11,000 tons of CO2, nearly 13 tons of NOx and about a third of a ton of particulate matter. They have saved more than a million gallons of diesel fuel driving 14 million miles a year. Tractors equipped with bunk heaters and auxiliary power units have helped reduce idling. At the same time Pottle’s pays drivers to use electrified truck stop technology, when available, and limits tuckers to driving 65 miles per hour. In addition, cabs are streamlined to reduce wind resistance. Pottle’s monitors driver idling via satellite and drivers get a dividend if they help Pottle’s achieve a target. Drivers received more than $29,000 in 2007 through this incentive program. Oversight, training, cab comfort technology and the incentive program are making idling a thing of the past, even in Bangor, Maine. Finally, Pottle’s managers have been generous in sharing information to help other truckers.

Business, Industry and Professional Organizations Environmental Merit Award
Maine 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)