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EPA Recognizes Four From Rhode Island With Environmental Merit Awards

Release Date: 04/22/04
Contact Information: Contact: Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office, (617) 918-1014

For Immediate Release: April 22, 2004; Release # 04-04-31

BOSTON – At an Earth Day ceremony in Boston’s Faneuil Hall, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's New England Office today recognized four individuals and organizations from Rhode Island with Environmental Merit Awards, including one lifetime achievement award. The merit awards, given out since 1970, 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 nearly 100 nominations from across New England.

“These individuals, organizations and businesses deserve our thanks for their extraordinary contributions in protecting the environment,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA’s New England Office. “They have shown us that anyone can make a big difference, whether at work, at home, or in their neighborhood.”

The winners from Rhode Island were among 34 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, as well as lifetime achievement awards for individuals.

Pictures of winners receiving their awards will be available from EPA. Call Carol Krasauskis at 617-918-1108.

Environmental Merit Award Winners from Rhode Island are:
Lifetime Achievement: Peggy Sharpe, North Kingstown, R.I.
Peggy Sharpe’s contributions to the environment in Rhode Island are so extensive it is difficult to count them. Her contributions began in the 1970s when Rhode Island was hit with a major military base closing that left much of the land along Narragansett Bay open to new development. To prevent this from happening, Sharpe and others took legal action to force the government to prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement – a national precedent at that time. Since then, Sharpe has been a driving force behind the Conservation Law Foundation’s involvement in Rhode Island, the Providence Street Tree Program, the Citizens Advisory Group on Solid Waste and the establishment of a Rhode Island Office by the Nature Conservancy. She was the first state director of the Nature Conservancy’s Rhode Island Office, which has since helped preserve over 18,000 acres in the state. Sharpe has also been a driving force behind the expansion of Brown University’s Center for Environmental Studies. There is no doubt that Rhode Island’s environment is much better off thanks to Peggy Sharpe’s years of charming, persuasive environmental advocacy.

Neil Ross, Clean Marina Programs, Kingston, R.I.
Neil Ross has been a champion for clean waters and clean boating for more than 30 years. He co-founded the International Marina Institute and the Marine Environmental Educational Foundation, and been active in the formation of marina associations in Brazil, the Virgin Islands and Asia. He has been a tireless proponent of clean marina programs and clean boating programs across the country. Among his successes is the first clean marina program in Maryland, now being imitated across the country, with efforts underway in all five coastal New England states. Ross was also instrumental in crafting the federal Clean Vessel Act, which provides funding for pumpout facilities for wastewater from boats, and championed Rhode Island’s successful effort to designate all state waters waters as a “No Discharge” area, where boat wastewater discharges are prohibited. He continues to write and speak as a highly respected authority about the importance of clean water for boaters and the marina industry’s responsibilities in protecting water quality.

Environmental Neighborhood Awareness Committee of Tiverton (ENACT), Tiverton, R.I.
Only one year ago, residents in Tiverton’s Bay Street neighborhood area were shocked by the discovery of high levels of arsenic, cyanide and other contaminants stretching across at least 50 properties in the area. Since then, the Environmental Neighborhood Awareness Committee of Tiverton has formed and mobilized effectively to ensure that the threat was being dealt with. The group researched the problem, attended briefings and distributed newsletters house-to-house to get information out to residents. They also formed strong working relationships with the Town Council, the RI Department of Environmental Management and Department of Health, and met with the Governor’s office. The group is working hard to develop plans for testing and cleanup of the pollution in their neighborhood. The neighborhood near Mount Hope Bay still has a long way to go before cleanup is complete, but ENACT is working to make sure it progresses quickly, fairly and completely.

New England Drinking Water Source Protection Coordinators
Clay Commons, Rhode Island Department of Health

Over the last four years, the six New England state drinking water source protection coordinators have made tremendous contributions to the long-term safety and viability of drinking water for New England residents. Since 1999, the various state programs, working with local, state and federal agencies, and non-profit organizations, have completed over 2,500 source water assessments, identifying potential threats to drinking water from hundreds of municipal and private suppliers in New England. But they have also gone far beyond information gathering by launching creative new programs to ensure that drinking water threats do not materialize. Efforts include partnering with non-profit agencies and drinking water suppliers to protect source waters, drafting model land conservation easements with the New Hampshire Society for the Protection of Forests, starting land conservation programs to purchase critical land near drinking water sources and working with Maine’s George Mitchell Center to create a manual on source water protection for suppliers.

Related Information:
Environmental Merit