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Rhode Island Researcher Receives Regional Environmental Award

Release Date: 05/03/2006
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. - May 3, 2006) – A researcher and program expert at the University of Rhode Island, Alyson McCann, will be honored on Thursday, May 4 in Boston’s Faneuil Hall as EPA presents the 2006 Environmental Merit Awards. Recognizing significant contributions to environmental awareness and problem solving, the Rhode Island awardee was recognized for individual contributions.

Given out by EPA since 1970, the merit awards 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 approximately 50 nominations from across New England.

“These awards are among the highest honors EPA can bestow to recognize environmental accomplishments,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA’s New England Office. “The work of these individuals, organizations and businesses reflect the best attributes of New Englanders, working to find solutions to environmental issues. I offer my gratitude for their extraordinary contributions in protecting the environment.”

Selection of Alyson McCann, the Water Quality Program Coordinator at the Univ. of Rhode Island for an environmental achievement award was chosen among 19 nominations 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. Also, each year EPA may present lifetime achievement awards for individuals.

Alyson McCann is being recognized for addressing an important public health issue in New England: the testing of private drinking water wells. In Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, it is estimated that 40 percent of the population is served by private drinking water wells – amounting to more than 800,000 private wells serving 2.3 million people. The threats from untreated private well water in New England are significant and can include contaminants such as arsenic, bacteria, MTBE, uranium, radionuclides, among others.

Before Alyson’s leadership crafting and implementing a New England-wide strategy for addressing private wells, efforts to assist the public and inform them of the risks from contamination and well testing for homeowners were severely limited. The goal of the Private Well Initiative is to encourage testing well water on an annual basis.

In 2006, Alyson was the key organizer for a regional consortium among public health and environmental agencies. Through initial funding from EPA, Alyson created and distributed a large inventory of state and contaminant-specific brochures to reach private well owners, public health officials, realtors and other groups. Alyson has advanced efforts of the initiative at the 2006 Private Well Consortium which was attended by over 100 private well professionals and included speakers from several universities and government agencies. Alyson continues to reach out on private well issues by offering information through community institutions such as libraries and local boards of health.

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