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EPA Commends Environmental Achievers in Puerto Rico

Release Date: 05/04/2005
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For Immediate Release: Wednesday, May 4, 2005

(#05039) SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - In celebration of the 35th anniversary of Earth Day, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today honored ten individuals and organizations for their outstanding efforts to protect the environment in Puerto Rico. Acting EPA Regional Administrator, Kathleen Callahan, presented EPA's Environmental Quality Awards at a ceremony at Universidad Metropolitana's Bayamón campus.

"These winners are environmental trail blazers who make our world a better place," said Acting Regional Administrator Callahan. "By being leaders and making local changes, the award recipients demonstrate that we can all have a positive impact on the health of our nation's air, land and water."

EPA selects Environmental Quality Award winners from non-profit, environmental and community groups, individual citizens, educators, business organizations and members of the news media. The honor is given to those individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions to improving the environment in EPA Region 2, which covers New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and seven federally-recognized Indian Nations. The Agency receives nominations for the awards from both inside and outside EPA.


Individual Citizen

Dr. Ariel Lugo
A riel Lugo is director of the International Institute of Tropical Forestry, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. He has had a long and storied career associated with environmental policy making, as well as research. Dr. Lugo began his administrative career as assistant secretary for Planning and Resource Analysis, Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources. Later he became acting director of the Center for Wetlands at the University of Florida, and staff member on the President's Council on Environmental Quality. Some of his current research includes: assessment of the role of tropical forests in global processes, ecological studies of tropical tree plantations, comparisons of plantations and natural forests, studies of tropical wetlands, and the relationship between forest management, soil and water quality in Caribbean forests.

Business & Industry

Janssen Ortho, LLC
Janssen Ortho, a Gurabo, Puerto Rico-based subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, owns a facility with hazardous waste contamination. The company's actions associated with the cleanup at the site have demonstrated its strong commitment to the protection of public health and the environment. When it was discovered that an underground waste collection system was leaking into the soils beneath one of their buildings, the company immediately informed the Commonwealth and EPA, and remediation began soon afterwards. A steam air stripper was placed in operation within 14 months making this one of the fastest remedial responses of this type. Up to the present time, contamination has been reduced more than 99.9% as part of the ground water restoration activities and the soil restoration has been completed

Federal, State, Local, or Tribal Government or Agency

University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus
The University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus, is the largest public educational institution in the Commonwealth. It is taking a leadership role in the research, promotion and education of environmental issues for Puerto Rico. The university has a long-standing partnership with a university in Berlin to research the applicability of green roofs to alleviate some of the environmental and public health issues of the island. The university has participated in the only green roof research being done in a tropical island setting. Another environmental effort that the University has initiated is "car free day" on campus. This was part of a broader initiative to "green" the campus. Other components included sustainable landscaping, an increase in the number of residential facilities in close proximity to campus and a multi-disciplinary curriculum incorporating a sustainability theme.

Environmental Education

Puerto Rico Agricultural Extension Services
"Environmental Superheroes"

The Environmental Superheroes Project was authored by Professor Nilda Gonzalez, Puerto Rico Agricultural Extension Services agent in Canovanas, Puerto Rico. The program educates individuals to make environmentally-sound evaluations about the preservation and protection of natural resources. Ten
4-H youth leaders were recruited and trained in environmental topics such as erosion and sedimentation, flooding, deforestation, water pollution, solid wastes, recycling and tropical forests. These leaders, in turn, taught the lessons to 108 4-H members. Workshops were created for many of the topics, for a hands-on experience. Five educational field trips were also planned and built into the overall experience. The multiplier effect – 10 original "Superheroes" creating 108 "Superheroes" - has been tested and proven successful.

María M. Alvarado Negrón
Bethsaida Velázquez Andújar High School

María Alvarado Negrón is a science teacher in Bethsaida Velázquez Andújar High School in Ponce, Puerto Rico. She is the coordinator of the school's science club and she developed a scientific investigation class for students who have a special interest in the environment. In the most recent academic year, the course was given to 16 students who were concerned about contamination of natural resources, new sources of energy, recycling and water conservation. When the students presented their work for the School District Science Fair, the school was awarded the Grand Prize and Ms. Negron was also recognized for her achievements. Of the winning projects from her class, eight went to the Regional Fair where all but one received awards. Her course has proven to be a model program for fostering environmental investigation and study in Puerto Rico.

Ginger Production Films, Inc.
Eco Aventura

Eco Aventura is an educational television program about environmental and ecological adventures geared to young people in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. Its hosts and hostesses are bubbly, energetic teens who guide their viewers through each adventure. Eco Aventura combines pride and concern for the environment and natural habitat with extreme sports. Instruction is given on climbing and diving safety, physical training, survival techniques and security. The program also goes a long way toward breaking down gender, language and racial barriers, and it travels to other venues outside of the Caribbean, including South and Central America.

Universidad Metropolitana
Proyecto FEST

The Fellows Enhancing Science and Technology (FEST) project at the School of Environmental Affairs at Metropolitan University in Puerto Rico has a direct impact on the science curriculum and environmental culture of eight public elementary schools in the Carolina District. Graduate students are appointed Scientific Collaborators and work with teachers on environmental lesson plans representing everyday issues from waste management to conservation of natural resources. One of the overall goals of the project is to develop scientists capable of efficiently communicating technical/scientific information to the community at large. This project provides an education for both student and teacher. The lessons created are aligned with the Guide in Environmental Education K-6 developed by the Science Program of the Puerto Rico Department of Education.

Non-Profit Organization, Environmental or Community Group

The Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico
"The Nature of Vieques"

The Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico is responsible for educating the public about the Commonwealth's natural resources and the need to protect them. In association with the Management Plan for the Western Vieques Conservation Area, which calls for the development of programs that educate the public on the need to protect this area, the Trust collaborated on the creation of an exhibit entitled The Nature of Vieques: 100 Million Years of History. The exhibit presents the natural history of Vieques from its beginnings to the present. Display panels show the geological processes that formed the island, land and marine ecosystems, its flora and fauna, and the human influence that has shaped the landscape throughout the years. Student interpreters from local schools serve as guides.

Samuel E. Suleimán
The Marine Environment Society

Samuel Suleimán is the founder and president of The Marine Environment Society in Puerto Rico, and the founder of both the SCUBA Divers Association, and the Ambiente Marino Diving School. He has served as a mentor of the University of Puerto Rico's student's organization and he was the coordinator of the International Coastal Cleanup project. Mr. Suleimán and the Marine Environment Society have taken a leadership role in protecting the Commonwealths' coral reefs. For years, he has been examining and monitoring coral reefs in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, while conducting training programs and field examinations. His organization works closely with the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources.

Press & Media

John McPhaul
Caribbean Business

John McPhaul is a correspondent for Caribbean Business, a weekly Puerto Rico newspaper. He currently writes about a variety of subjects including the environment, energy, infrastructure and human resources. Coverage of special note includes articles on the listing of Vieques as a Superfund site, the controversy over the development of Puerto Rico's beaches, urban sprawl, waste management, development of alternative energy programs on the Island and water resources. Prior to joining Caribbean Business, John was a reporter with the San Juan Star with similar reporting interests. He began his journalistic career in Costa Rica more than two decades ago. There he was a reporter for the Tico Times and covered such diverse topics as the environment, the country's national parks and the political strife in neighboring Nicaragua.