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EPA Commends Environmental Achievers in Puerto Rico

Release Date: 04/26/2007
Contact Information: Rich Cahill (212) 637-3666, cahill.richard@epa.gov or Carl Soderberg (787) 977-5814, soderberg.carl@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y.) Eleven individuals and organizations from Puerto Rico received top honors today from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for their work to protect the environment. Their exemplary efforts were recognized as they were presented with EPA Environmental Quality Awards by EPA Regional Administrator Alan J. Steinberg during a ceremony today in EPA’s New York offices. In addition, the Agency recognized one student from Humacao, Puerto Rico who was one of the ten winners nation-wide of the President’s Environmental Youth Award.

"EPA applauds the tireless dedication of the award winners, who are truly environmental champions,” said Regional Administrator Alan J. Steinberg. Their extraordinary contributions make our world a better place and remind us that individuals really can make a difference.”

2007 ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY AWARD WINNERS

Individual Citizens

Sylvia Robinson

For more than four decades, Sylvia Robinson, has had a major impact on the environment in Puerto Rico. In 1982 she co-founded the Executive Tourism Task Force, a multi-agency organization that addressed health and environmental issues in the Condado area of San Juan. She worked with numerous agencies, including the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority, in getting adequate funding to help restore the stormwater system in and around her community. She was also in the forefront of neighborhood cleanups, beautification projects and enforcement efforts which lead to a higher quality of life for her self and her neighbors.

Alberto Rivera Santiago
Universidad de Puerto Rico, Río Piedras

Alberto Rivera Santiago is supervisor of Panoramic Ornamentation at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras campus. In this capacity, he is responsible for introducing native trees to the campus grounds. Nearly a decade ago, he began a community grassroots effort to save a 244-acre plot from development in his native Corozal. Since that time he has helped preserve a primary forest with 100-year-old trees, and 32 species of endemic and migratory birds. He has also led efforts to cleanup portions of the forest, once hauling out a total of 672 tires from areas in and near the forest.

Manuel Acevedo Lopez
Ciudadanos Aguadenos Pro Conservacion del Ambiente

Manuel Acevedo Lopez began a career in environmental advocacy at the age of 19. Since that time, and up until his passing, he helped mobilize entire communities faced with environmental challenges. He served on an independent environmental advisory board appointed by the Governor or Puerto Rico. He was very instrumental in getting the Coloso Valley, 3,000 acres of former sugar cane fields, to be designated an agricultural reserve. His works were so impressive and his commitment to the environment so strong, that Puerto Rico’s largest newspaper, El Nueva Dia, named him the “Apostle of the Environment.”


Non-Profit Organization, Environmental or Community Group

Corredor del Yaguazo

Corredor del Yaguazo, taking its name from a native bird whose habitat it seeks to protect, is a community based organization serving the Catano, Puerto Rico area. The organization fosters environmental education through hands-on experience in the Las Cucharillas wetlands area as a laboratory for studying the life cycle, habitat and migratory patterns of the Yaguazo. With funding from the Starbucks foundation, the organization was able to give 16 children from the Catano community a unique experience in studying mangroves, trees and the vegetation endemic to the area.

G Works, Inc.

G Works, Inc., headed by Gretchen Guzmán, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental education that works with teachers, students and the public to provide “a broad understanding of the planet.” In its five years, G Works programs have positively affected 750 K-12 teachers and as many as 10,000 students with lessons and programs on a variety of subjects including: greenhouse gases, global warming, wetlands, ozone and the ice caps. This year, G Works will work with 1200 schoolchildren on marine debris and its consequences.


Press & Media

Noticentro 4
"Puerto Rico desde el aire"

Noticentro is the news department of WAPA Television of Puerto Rico. In programming for its five part segment, “Puerto Rico desde el aire,” reporters took to the air to investigate environmental impacts in the Commonwealth, ranging from construction in and around ecologically sensitive wetlands and mangrove forests, to the health and environmental impacts of mining. Another segment focused on the landscape of the north coast of the island and its prized karst region.


Environmental Education

Centro de Educacion Ecologica
Universidad de Puerto Rico, Cayey

An Ecological Education Center was built at the University of Puerto Rico, Cayey campus, to educate visitors and students on the evolution of life on the planet, endangered species and ecosystems at risk. The Center houses dioramas that depict different aspects of the environment, including: seaweed prairies; mangroves; coral reefs; and abyssal zones. It also has a video library, conference room, gardens and the beginnings of a butterfly garden. The gardens include a cactus collection with every species present in Puerto Rico, and a medicinal plant garden.

Colegio Catolico Notre Dame

Notre Dame, located in Caguas, Puerto Rico, and founded in 1916, has incorporate environmental education and awareness throughout its curriculum. Through “Verdes Soles,” a student organization, children participate in ecological activities. They planted indigenous trees in Caguas and organized recycling and garbage collections on beaches and rivers. Last year the Puerto Rico House of Representatives awarded the school a prize for its proposal to include human ecology courses in the curricula of the island’s public school system.


Federal, State, Local or Tribal Government or Agency

Adriana Irizarry, Pedro Maldonado & Elizabeth Viverito
La Fortaleza, Asuntos Federales

The partnership between La Fortalez – the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Office and EPA’s Brownfields program has been vital to the creation of the Puerto Rico Intra-agency Workgroup. The program empowers states, communities and other stakeholders to work together to prevent, assess, safely clean up and sustainably reuse brownfields. The workgroup has provided technical, financial and administrative assistance to 53 out of 78 municipalities island-wide.

Lyvia N. Rodriguez Del Valle
Corporacion del Proyecto ENLACE del Caño Martín Pena

The Corporation is a government initiative under the Puerto Rico Highway and Transportation Authority that builds partnerships with the private sector and local government to overcome poverty and attain social and environmental justice. The Corporation’s role is vast and includes: coordinating the dredging of the Cano Martin Pena; promoting community empowerment and a restored San Juan Bay Estuary System; and addressing major environmental degradation issues. The Corporation sponsored two Cano Martin Pena surface cleanups that removed 885 tons of debris and the recovery of almost 1500 pounds of recyclable materials.


Business

Hewlett Packard Puerto Rico, E-Cycling Program

The Hewlett Packard Aguadilla Manufacturing facility developed a program for the collection, packing and recycling of electronic waste in cooperation with the HP Product Recycling Services operation in Tennessee. The program offers business customers the ability to return any piece of hardware, from any manufacturer. HP’s state-of-the-art program ensures that obsolete or unwanted hardware is recycled in a way that conserves resources and materials. During Fiscal Year 2006, HP shipped 460,000 pounds of electronic waste to its facility in Tennessee. The next step for the company is to develop local recycling facilities to expand its program for remanufacture and reuse.

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/.

“We are also delighted by the winner from Puerto Rico in this year’s PEYA competition,” Mr. Steinberg added. “The environment is a great concern to young people and I encourage other young people to follow the lead of this year’s winner, Gabriela C. McCall-Delgado, and get involved in their local environment.”


President’s Environmental Youth Awards

Gabriela McCall – Region 2 Award Winner

Gabriela McCall, 12th grade student and senior Girl Scout in Humacao, Puerto Rico, initiated a project about native birds and the importance of preserving their habitat. She started the project after becoming concerned about a dwindling bird population in her community, and she presumed development was the culprit. She began to catalog bird species and take photographs. She then used her research materials to create an outreach program focused on the importance of preserving the birds’ habitat. Gabriela took her presentation to schools and community meetings and shared her findings and concern; she is credited with raising the awareness of the loss of habitat and the need for preservation.

The PEYA program encourages young people to study the environment and better understand their relationship to it. The national competition is open to students from kindergarten through twelfth grade who actively participate in noteworthy environmental projects. Out of the hundreds of competitors, one winner is chosen from each of EPAs ten regions and several others are chosen to receive honorable mentions. This years winners received the award from EPA’s 1st Administrator William D. Ruckelshaus on April 20 at a national ceremony held at the EPA’s Ariel Rios building in Washington, D.C. For more information about the PEYA program, go to http://www.epa.gov/enviroed/awards.html

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