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EPA Presents President's Environmental Youth Awards; Manati Youth Honored

Release Date: 04/23/1998
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(#98039) San Juan, P.R. -- Haniel Velez-Rosario of Manati, Puerto Rico was honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with a President's Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) for his efforts to better understand the impact of illegal dumping in sinkholes in the Laguna Tortuguero. The award recognizes young people who become an environmental force, individually or collectively, within their community. Each year, EPA selects ten winners from across the country, one from each EPA region. Three additional winners are selected from EPA Region 2, which includes New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Haniel Velez-Rosario was a regional winner.

Sinkholes act as natural filters for the Laguna, and contamination in the sinkholes ends up in the groundwater. Mr. Velez-Rosario identified 87 sinkholes, and determined that at least 33 of them are contaminated from clandestine dumping operations. Mr. Velez-Rosario is working with COTICAM, an environmental non-profit group, to develop a management plant to preserve and maintain the sinkholes.

"Children are the future stewards of our environment, so it is important that we recognize and encourage their efforts to make our world a cleaner and healthier place," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA -Region 2 Administrator. "If the youth of today show a fraction of the environmental initiative and ingenuity of these PEYA winners, then I know Mother Nature will be in good hands."

Young people from Scotch Plains, New Jersey; Staten Island, New York; and East Meadow, New York were also won PEYA honors and were recognized for their outstanding efforts to protect the environment. Each organization received a plaque, and each student received a certificate signed by President Clinton at an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2 environmental awards ceremony held today at the U.S. Court of International Trade in downtown Manhattan. The national winner, the Union Catholic Environmental Club of Scotch Plains, New Jersey, accepted its award from EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner during a ceremony held March 26 in Washington, D.C.

For more information on the PEYA program, or to apply for a PEYA award in the future, please contact Cecilia Echols, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2 at 212-637-3675.

For more information contact:
Mary Mears, Press Office
EPA Region 2
290 Broadway
NY, NY 10007-1866
Voice: 212-637-3669 FAX: 212-637-5046 E-Mail: