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News Releases from Region 01

Rhode Island Organizations and Residents Recognized by EPA for Environmental Achievements

Contact Information: 
David Deegan (deegan.dave@epa.gov)

BOSTON – Five winners from Rhode Island were recognized today at the 2016 Environmental Merit Awards ceremony of the US Environmental Protection Agency's New England regional office. The environmental leaders were among three dozen recipients across New England honored for helping to improve New England's environment.

Each year EPA New England recognizes individuals and groups in the six New England states who have worked to protect or improve the region's environment in distinct ways. The merit awards, given out since 1970, honor individuals and groups who have shown particular ingenuity and commitment in their efforts.

"We are proud to honor those citizens, businesses and organizations who have gone the extra mile to help protect and preserve our region's natural resources," said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "These New England award winners are committed to making our towns, cities and countryside of New England healthy, vibrant places with clean air, land and water."

The Environmental Merit Awards, which are given to people who have already taken action, are awarded 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 presents lifetime achievement awards for individuals.

Merit Award Winners from Connecticut listed by category are:


Robert (Bob) McMahon
Providence, Rhode Island

Bob McMahon retired as superintendent of Providence's Parks Department in 2015 after almost 30 years of public service, most of them with the city of Providence. During his tenure, McMahon oversaw and often led projects that contributed to a better quality of life for Providence, especially for communities burdened by pollution and neglect. His list of accomplishments ranges from installing neighborhood splash parks to navigating a major stormwater and water quality restoration effort at Roger Williams Park. He was instrumental in ensuring that access and amenities for the public were included in development and restoration projects such as River Walk, the Woonasquatucket River bike path, and WaterPlace Park. With his advocacy, Providence now has thriving farmers markets and community gardens. Thousands of trees have been planted, and the city has piloted ways to incorporate green infrastructure into park maintenance and upkeep.

McMahon was integral to the modernization of the Roger Williams Zoo, helping make it the first zoo in New England to earn accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. He also oversaw the building of the new Botanical Center, which brings environmental information to the public on topics such as rain gardens, pollinators, and landscaping with nature.

In a more directly environmental area, McMahon worked with the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, which agreed to receive and manage a $424,000 grant that had been sitting unclaimed by the city for several years. Together the city and estuary program developed a project to address the degraded water quality in the Roger Williams Park pond system. With additional EPA support, McMahon helped get a bio-infiltration unit installed that captures some 2.6 million gallons of stormwater runoff each year at the park. Design and construction of more than 70 neighborhood park improvement projects, 11 water splash parks, nine community gardens, 25 walking tracks, 40 park stewardship groups, support for bike paths, and a new boat ramp to the Seekonk River are just some of the tangible and lasting evidence of Bob's contributions to a better environment for Providence.

Business, Industry, Trade or Professional

Arpin Group, Inc.
West Warwick, Rhode Island

Arpin is a fourth generation family-owned company specializing in domestic and international moving, global information storage management and environmental stewardship, through its subsidiaries, Arpin Van Lines, Arpin International Group, Creative Storage Solutions, and Arpin Renewable Energy. Arpin continues to advance toward a more sustainable future to ultimately manage a company that is in balance with the economy and the environment. Arpin's mission to meet the highest environmental standards includes adopting a triple-mission pledge with equal weight on economic, operational, and social achievements. Arpin became the first company in the moving industry to perform the S-CORE Multi-purpose Sustainability Assessment offered by the International Society of Sustainability Professionals. The company determined it could speed up implementation of sustainable practices globally by establishing a Sustainability Committee. The committee provides a continuous means of self-assessment and advises Arpin's Board on environmentally responsible worldwide growth. The committee continues to work on easily replicable improvements including elimination of cafeteria waste using an on-site compost station, moving to 100 percent eco-friendly landscaping and cleaning supplies, and planting a community garden. Arpin also recently partnered with Wind Energy Development to construct a wind turbine at its headquarters. The turbine will supplement existing clean energy systems and will completely offset its utility usage. Arpin also is adding a second major solar array at its headquarters and soon will be a net-zero energy consumer, making it a true corporate leader in sustainability.

Enviro, Community, Academia & Nonprofit

Clean Ocean Access
Middletown, Rhode Island

Clean Ocean Access was founded in 2006 as a grassroots movement of surfers and outdoor enthusiasts concerned about public access to water and water quality at beaches. Today, Clean Ocean Access helps organize coastal cleanups to remove marine debris and provide water testing for water quality. It also helps monitor public rights-of-way to protect public access to shorelines. In nominating the organization, Judith Swift and Tom Borden of the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program also recognized its co-founder and executive director, Dave McLaughlin. The all-volunteer group tests water quality weekly all year-round at 15 locations on Aquidneck Island. It has collected more than 5,000 samples, and in 2013, initiated a program at Easton's Beach in partnership with local schools to sample 10 locations for nitrogen and phosphorus.

With over 5,000 volunteers, Clean Ocean Access has led more than 200 marine debris removal projects, cleaning up over 73,000 pounds of debris. The organization started monitoring two access points in 2008 and now, in partnership with the RI Coastal Resources Management Council, is on track to adopt all 50 public rights-of-way to Aquidneck Island's coastline. In addition to working closely with the three communities on Aquidneck Island - Newport, Middletown and Portsmouth- Clean Ocean Access works with local schools and community groups. It connects people with nature and helps raise awareness of local issues, shape public opinion, and find solutions for environmental issues on Aquidneck Island.


State Performance Partnership Improvement Team
NH Department of Environmental Services -
Susan Carlson; Vincent Perelli; Ted Diers; Wendy Waskin; John Duclos
Maine Department of Environmental Protection - Jeff Crawford
RI Department of Environmental Management - Terry Gray
Vt. Department of Environmental Conservation - Carey Hengstenberg
Conn. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection - Nicole Lugli
Mass. Department of Environmental Protection - Deneen Simpson

The State Performance Partnership Improvement Team made the concept of E-Enterprise a reality. The team used 21st century tools to streamline work plan negotiations and ultimately strengthen oversight and management of the Performance Partnership Grant progress for New England state partners. The work of the team, consisting of representatives from six states, showed that waste can be eliminated, processes streamlined and budget shortfalls tackled through partnerships and on-line cooperation.

With declining funding from EPA over the past few years, New England states needed to address budget shortfalls for environmental efforts. A request by the state of New Hampshire for help in eliminating waste through "lean" processes led to improvements and efficiencies in environmental work across New England. Ideas were generated through the "lean" events that could benefit other states. The State Performance Partnership Improvement Team seized the chance to implement changes in 2015.

Vincent Perelli of the NH Department of Environmental Services was a leader in convening all six New England states to commit to trying this new approach. The state partners worked with EPA New England to design a new SharePoint site, which served as the E-Enterprise platform to conduct real-time state work plan negotiations, provided the opportunity to spur program dialogue in a new way, and allowed codification of negotiated 2-year agreements in a single document. This was the first time EPA New England used SharePoint for this type of E-Enterprise collaboration on such a large scale with external users. This involved significant time, effort and coordination within EPA and with state information technology offices, to resolve issues as they emerged.

Despite the technical challenges of creating this new E-Enterprise approach, it has been very successful. For instance, the air program completed negotiations through SharePoint with all six states within two months, and agreement for all work plan elements were completed with three states by mid-December – significantly faster than prior years. A high level of interest has been shown nationally for using this model to improve joint strategic planning by EPA and states to save time, resources, and produce measurable environmental results.

This year's Environmental Merit Awards program was dedicated to the historic Paris climate agreement last year at which over 190 nations committed to universally limit global warming. The agreement is a strong starting point and promotes action over time that will protect this planet from the impacts of climate change.

More information on EPA's Environmental Merit Awards, including photographs from the award ceremony: www.epa.gov/environmental-merit-awards-new-england