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EPA Honors Auburn Water District for Clean Water Actions

Release Date: 04/01/2003
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1008 Richard Weagle, Auburn Water District (508-832-5336)

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today honored the Auburn Water District, in Auburn, Mass., for its work to protect water sources by purchasing three reservoirs. The district, one of 79 winners selected nationally as a ‘Clean Water Partner for the 21st Century,' was honored at a ceremony this morning in Washington by EPA Administrator Christie Whitman.

EPA's Office of Water created the Clean Water Partners Awards as part of the celebration of the Year of Clean Water. The awards are designed to recognize extraordinary actions taken by local governments to protect watersheds over and above the requirements of the Clean Water Act, focusing on the leadership role that local governments are playing in their own organizations and their efforts to mobilize other partners in the watershed. Honorees were reviewed by a panel including EPA, the Water Environment Federation, Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies and the National League of Cities.

"We received about 200 applications from across the U. S. and after careful review 79 were chosen as Clean Water Partners," said G. Tracy Mehan III, EPA Assistant Administrator for Water, who joined Whitman at today's ceremony. "It is our belief that clean water begins at the local level. We applaud the efforts of all Clean Water Partners to improve the environment in the communities they serve."

"The Auburn Water District shows that everyone can make a difference for the waters in their community," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England Office. "The district deserves recognition for its outstanding work."

"We're honored to accept this award," said Richard Weagle, superintendent of the Auburn Water District. "The commissioners have worked hard to make this district what it is and to make this purchase happen. It was the right move for our customers and for area residents."

The Auburn Water District is a quasi-public authority created under the Massachusetts General Laws to manage and develop the water resources of Auburn. The district was honored for protecting water sources by purchasing three reservoirs in Auburn, thereby protecting the land for drinking water sources and letting it be available for recreation by the community.

The acquisition began when the district determined it needed to purchase land to protect two new wells it had developed. During negotiations in became clear that the landowner, Mass Electric, was interested in selling far more land in the area, including three reservoirs originally developed to provide cooling water to a now closed power plant.

After two years of negotiations by commissioners, the district received 721 acres of land and water in return for repairing and maintaining the dams. The properties will be kept as open space for water source protection and passive recreation where appropriate in perpetuity.

Other award winners in New England were the Norwalk River Watershed Initiative in Norwalk, Conn., the town of Narragansett, R.I. and the town of Portage Lake, Maine.