|(#03046) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2 Administrator Jane M. Kenny celebrated Earth Day today by presenting ten awards for outstanding efforts to improve the environment and protect public health in Puerto Rico. Regional Administrator Kenny presented EPA’s Environmental Quality Awards and a President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) at a ceremony held today at EPA’s offices in Manhattan. Maria Falcon, the producer of a popular environmental television program in Puerto Rico, also spoke at today’s event.
“The champions we honor today reflect a growing awareness that we have to do all we can to protect our precious environment,” said EPA Region 2 Administrator Jane M. Kenny. “We have some mighty challenges ahead of us. It is tremendously gratifying to know that people like our award winners are working so hard to protect the environment and public health.”
EPA presents the Environmental Quality Awards annually to individuals, nonprofit groups, educators, business representatives, government officials and media representatives from New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who have made significant contributions to improving the quality of the environment in the region. Winners are chosen by a panel of EPA employees who review nominations submitted from inside and outside the Agency.
The PEYA program is designed to promote the study of environmental science to help young people develop leadership skills through environmental actions. Youth from kindergarten to twelfth grade who actively participate in noteworthy environmental projects are eligible to receive PEYA certificates of commendation signed by the President of the United States. In addition, youths within the same EPA region can compete with each other for national recognition. One winner from each of EPA’s ten regions will then be selected to participate in an expense-paid trip to the national award ceremony in Washington, D.C.
PRESIDENT’S ENVIRONMENTAL YOUTH AWARD
Samuel I. Alejandro Rivera
Fajardo, Puerto Rico
A picture is worth a thousand words – and even more in the case of Samuel I. Alejandro Rivera. Through the countless photographs Samuel took, he focused community attention on the state of local rivers that were overflowing with garbage and debris. Within a three-year period, the community, including the Puerto Rican cabinet, found ways of using Samuel’s pictures to lobby for funds to clean up the area and the rivers. The cleanup received media attention and led to awards from the municipality of Fajardo and Vega Baja for his efforts.
ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY AWARD WINNERS
Francisco Javier Blanco
Former Executive Director, Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico
Francisco Javier Blanco served as the Executive Director of the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico from 1969 to 2002. He has vast experience in program planning and development. Under his leadership, the Trust established important mechanisms to protect the environment in the Caribbean region. One example is the Debt-for-Nature Swaps in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Puerto Rico. He was a major proponent of the law passed in 2002 which established Conservation Easements. In 2000, the United States Secretary of the Interior awarded Mr. Blanco the Conservation Service Award, the highest distinction our country can bestow for contributions to conservation.
FEDERAL, STATE AND LOCAL AGENCY
Municipality of Comerio
Comerio is Puerto Rico’s number one municipality in recycling. Under the leadership of Mayor Jose A. Santiago Rivera, Comeria was the first community to reach a recycling rate of 35% for its solid waste, a level that municipalities in Puerto Rico are required by Commonwealth law to achieve by the year 2006. This year, Comerio reached a recycling rate of 64.20%, way out in front of all other municipalities on the island. Such success would not be possible without the total support of its residents and business owners, hard work and dedication by municipal officials and developing a program that works for the people using it. In addition to significantly cutting solid waste disposal costs, the recycled material is sold to a recycling plant in Bayamon and has become a source of income for the municipality.
Hatillo School Recycling Project
Municipality of Hatillo, Puerto Rico
The looming crisis of shrinking space for solid waste disposal in Puerto Rico, prompted teachers and students from elementary and intermediate schools in Hatillo to join forces this year in a newspaper recycling campaign that collected more than 170,000 pounds of newspapers to date. This project, called My Family and I Working for the Environment, was successful in involving 350 elementary school students and attracting a number of corporate sponsers. Through their efforts, approximately 266 cubic yards of available solid waste disposal space has already been saved. In the Brown Gold; The Last Hope project, more than 500 junior high school students are involved in promoting and developing composting as an alternative to conventional solid waste disposal practices. Ten compost centers have been established so far this year with the goal of 100 compost centers in opeation by May 2004.
School Compost Project
Solid Waste Management Authority of Puerto Rico
The School Compost Project is a strategic alliance of the Department of Education, municipal governments and the Agricultural Extension Service to promote the recycling of organic waste in homes and communities through composting. The project trains teachers in the Agricultural Education Program of the Department of Education to inform students and the public about recycling organic waste for use as fertilizer through composting and reduce the practice of land filling. The project is also investigating ways to capture more of the organic wastes generated in Puerto Rico for composting.
PRESS & MEDIA
WIPR-TV Channel 6
This weekly television program, which covers a wide spectrum of local environmental issues, provides a forum for communities, government and scientists to discuss and find potential solutions to problems affecting human health and the ecology in Puerto Rico. It reaches thousands of students and has become educational tool for school teachers to promote environmental awareness. One episode focused on the dramatic impact of human activities on the Martin Pena Channel using interviews and original footage dating back to the 1950s. The documentary generated a great deal of interest and awareness among the residents of Martin Pena and the general population.
Merck Sharp & Dohme Puerto Rico Operations
Barceloneta, Puerto Rico
Merck Puerto Rico Operations’ commitment to environmental protection is reflected in an innovative and rewarding environmental program entitled Merck Champions for the Environment. The initiative provides grants to support environmental programs or projects at Merck sites to promote respect for the environment and the conservation of natural resources. For more than a decade the company has also sponsored an annual Earth Week celebration at its adopted schools in Puerto Rico, teaching environmental lessons through activities such as arts and crafts, recycling contests, painting, and tree plantings. In addition, Merck sponsors an Annual Safety and Environmental Symposium through which chemical engineering students are challenged to use their knowledge to develop poster exhibits on environmentally sound technological opportunities.
Martha G. Quinones Dominguez
Ciudadanos en Defensa del Ambiente (CEDDA)
Aricebo, Puerto Rico
Led by Martha G. Quinones Dominguez, Environmental Sciences professor at the University of Puerto Rico, CEDDA has made vital contributions to environmental education. She has trained science teachers to promote environmental awareness among school children, has facilitated students’ environmental experiments at science fairs, and is a frequent speaker on environmental topics at schools. Through her leadership, CEDDA championed the effort to designate Cano Tiburones as a natural reserve and developed a management strategy for it. As president of CEDDA she has also developed alternatives for implementation of recycling and composting waste reduction in 15 municipalities in Puerto Rico.
NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION, ENVIRONMENTAL OR COMMUNITY GROUP
Comite Caborrojenos Pro Salud y Ambiente, Inc.
Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico
The mission of the Comite is promotion of sustainability through initiatives for the conservation of natural resources, particularly in the Southwest region of Puerto Rico. In 2002, the group successfully harvested 2,160 coral colonies, including threatened species such as the Acroporas in a coral culture project. The Comite directly involves community, government, industry, students and others in restoration and conservation activities. In an effort to rescue coastal resources, the group reforested the island with native trees and almost 600 mangrove seeds. It also promotes sustainable economic development through ecotourism and the support of environmentally conscious enterprises.
BUSINESS OR INDUSTRY
Hewlett Packard Caribe
Municipality of Aquadilla
The performance of the Hewlett Packard Caribe facility in Aguadilla is showing other companies in Puerto Rico how to reduce the impact of their operations on the environment in the areas of waste management, energy consumption, water consumption and less toxic material substitutions in the manufacturing process. The numbers are impressive....77% of the waste generated at the facility is being diverted from landfilling, representing a monthly average reduction of 179 tons. The facilty has reduced water consumption in its cooling towers by 25,000 gallons per day and recycled over 571 tons of paper and cardboard and 161 tons of metal and electronic equipment in 2002. Using a cold flash evamporator system, in addition to energy recovery techniques, the facility was able to cut the amount of non-hazardous waste ink disposed of in landfills over a two-year period by 415 tons. Hewlett Packard Caribe was also commended by the Muncipality of Aquadilla for its support of the local government’s recycling program last year.