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Outstanding Puerto Ricans Honored For Environmental Efforts

Release Date: 08/20/1999
Contact Information: Carl Soderberg (787) 729-6951 /

(#99138) San Juan, Puerto Rico -- Seven groups and individuals were honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today with Environmental Quality Awards for their outstanding efforts to protect and improve the environment in Puerto Rico. The awards, presented to the winners by Jeanne M. Fox, EPA Region 2 Administrator, recognize efforts by individuals, environmental and community groups, government agencies and businesses that exemplify an ultimate dedication to preserving the environment. Award recipients are nominated by colleagues and admirers from both inside and outside EPA.

"This year's winners are being honored for everything from plunging their hands in the earth to help plant gardens, to educating their communities to the importance of environmental issues," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA Region 2 Administrator. "They all have one thing in common. They have turned their concern for the environment into action."

Honored at a ceremony held today at the Universidad Metropolitana were:

Frank Coss -- COTICAM, Manati, Puerto Rico
Frank Coss is well-known in Puerto Rico as a long-time community leader and environmentalist whose focus has been the preservation of the island's dazzling and diverse natural environment. In 1991, Mr. Coss founded the Steering Committee for Environmental Quality (COTICAM), a non-profit organization aimed at increasing citizen awareness of issues central to the protection of Puerto Rico's environment. Under his leadership, COTICAM has worked in partnership with EPA on several community involvement campaigns, including the protection of the Northern Limestone Aquifer, which supplies fresh water for residential, industrial and commercial use. Due to his invaluable work, some of the most serious environmental problems affecting the north-central region of Puerto Rico are now receiving prime public attention.

Frank Wadsworth -- Río Piedras, Puerto Rico
Frank Wadsworth is a long-time leader in the preservation of fragile tropical forests in Puerto Rico, having served as the Director of the Institute of Tropical Forestry and Supervisor of the Caribbean National Forest for 22 years. Mr. Wadsworth was instrumental in the formation of Puerto Rico's Department of Natural Resources and Environment and the island's Environmental Quality Board, and played major roles in the protection from destruction of a primary forest at Maricao, mangroves at Arroyo and the natural resources of Mona Island. He has written 102 technical papers and a book about tropical forestry and preservation, and shared his vast knowledge with others as a university professor and, since 1952, as a trainer of counselors at a nature camp.

Guardianes de la Montaña -- Ciales, Puerto Rico
Guardianes de la Montaña has raised the public's awareness of the importance of natural resources in Ciales and all of Puerto Rico through its diligent work with the government and legislature. The group's lobbying efforts led to the unanimous approval of the Bill of Senate 21, which preserves the 5,000 acres of Los Tres Pichachos Forest as a state forest. The Guardianes have extended their expertise in the area of environmental lobbying and collaboration to young people in Ciales, where since 1996, they have assisted in the creation of 11 environmental groups in the local public school district.

Revista Agroempresarial de Puerto Rico -- San Juan, Puerto Rico
The Revista Agroempresarial is a non-profit agricultural sciences publication founded by Isidro Toro Dominicci, a professional agronomist, in 1991. It seeks to educate farmers and agricultural science professionals about environmental issues including recycling, pesticide contamination, forestry and ecology. Praised by professional and environmental groups throughout the Island, the magazine has established itself as a reliable educational tool for Puerto Rico's agriculture industry.

José Ramiro Rodríguez-- First Brands - Puerto Rico -- San Juan, Puerto Rico
Mr. Rodríguez was instrumental in bringing the Bag-a-Thon anti-litter campaign to Puerto Rico. Working with the College of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors of Puerto Rico, he has led this ten-year effort, which has resulted in the collection of 5,000 tons of litter. Over 50,000 people have participated in the Bag-a-Thon campaign, and more than $2 million worth of publicity has been generated for the conservation of public lands on the Island.

Olga Rivera -- Puerto Rico Department of Health -- San Juan, Puerto Rico
As director of the Public Water Supply Supervision Program, Ms. Rivera has been instrumental in the development and implementation of a strategy to bring Puerto Rico's small water systems into compliance with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Working in partnership with EPA and bringing in other parties to assist, Ms. Rivera has focused on the drinking water quality of many of the 235 rural water systems throughout the Island's mountainous regions. Although these small water systems often lacked the financial and technical resources to easily come into compliance with federal regulations, Ms. Rivera and her agency have met their ambitious goals and seen a great improvement in water quality in many communities over the past few years.

Ecology Club of Academia Perpetuo Socorro -- Miramar, Puerto Rico
After extensive research on environmental issues, this group of high school students came together to create a garden on the roof of their school, which doubles as a living laboratory. In the garden, students learn firsthand how trees can capture carbon dioxide and particulates, and how trees serve as habitats for many diverse animal species. The students' project is so successful that members of community and a local pharmaceutical company have sought to replicate their project. The group includes: Anamar Aponte, Claudio Arzeno, Daniel Colberg, Camille Colón, Patricia Crumley, Natalia De Jesús, Anne Galanes, Laura Hunter, Yamile Marti,Vicky Pandal, Patricia Pérez, Mari Provi Rosario, Stephanie Stolberg, Mariana Suárez, and Katia Villanueva.

For information on how to nominate a individual or group for an Environmental Quality Award, please contact Chris Sebastian, EPA Region 2, 212-637-3660.

For more information contact:
Carl Soderberg
EPA Caribbean Environmental Protection Division
1492 Ponce De Leon Avenue
Santurce, PR 00909
Voice: 787-729-6951 FAX: 787-729-7747