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Connecticut Citizens Receive Earth Day Honors with Prestigious Regional EPA Environmental Award


A Connecticut career civil servant, plus two innovative government programs from the Nutmeg State will be honored on Wednesday, April 18 in Boston’s Faneuil Hall as EPA presents its annual Environmental Merit Awards for 2007.

The merit awards, recognizing significant contributions to environmental awareness and problem solving, include a top honor for one Connecticut awardee – a lifetime achievement award. EPA is also recognizing two state government-sponsored programs that are making significant impacts on environmental quality in distinct ways.

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 54 nominations from across New England.

“Our Environmental Merit 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. “I offer my gratitude to these citizens for their extraordinary contributions in protecting our shared environment. Their work reflects the best attributes of New Englanders, working to find solutions to tough environmental issues.”

The winners from Connecticut were among 29 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.

The Environmental Merit Award Winners from Connecticut are:

Lifetime Achievement Environmental Merit Award:

Elaine O’Keefe

Former Director of Health and Welfare for the Town of Stratford Connecticut, Elaine O’Keefe has worked in local public health for nearly twenty-five years. As a result of her efforts over the past two decades in the New Haven Health Department and the Stratford Health Department, she is nationally regarded for her work in HIV prevention, primary health care initiatives; community based health care planning, tobacco prevention and environmental health. Under her leadership, the Stratford Health Department was selected as the recipient of two national awards for outstanding achievement, one for advocating primary care services and another for excellence for creating healthy communities. Beginning in 1993 Elaine built and maintained a successful model of collaboration among the local, state and federal environmental and health agencies that converged on Stratford during her first year there. No single agency could adequately address the environmental health concerns at a hazardous waste site literally spread across the backyards, school yards and playgrounds of an entire community of 50,000 people alone. With the experience of working in a high profile Superfund community, Elaine also worked as the President of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, and emphasized the need to educate the local health officials about the connection between human health and the environment. Through her many achievements and accomplishments, Elaine has demonstrated a sustained commitment to health and environmental issues over her career. As a leader in the field of environmental health, she has worked on behalf of the citizens of Connecticut to create a model for effective local public health practice for years to come.

Local, State or Federal Governmental Environmental Merit Award:

Connecticut Dept. of Environmental Protection’s - No Child Left Inside Initiative Team
Commissioner Gina McCarthy, Diane Joy, Cyndy Chanaca, Pam Adams, Tom Morrissey, Doris Johnson

In 2005, Connecticut DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy created the “No Child Left Inside” initiative. At the root of the initiative is the basic notion that children do not go outside and play anymore. This initiative was developed to attract Connecticut families, particularly those in urban areas, to the wide range of recreational opportunities available in Connecticut’s parks and forests, and to reconnect children with the natural world. Through this initiative, the Team is increasing public awareness of the recreational, cultural, and historical opportunities available through the state’s park and forest system using an outreach and marketing campaign to encourage the public to visit state parks and experience all that these great assets have to offer. Through this initiative, the Team hopes to foster the development of future generations of environmental stewards and to nurture partnerships with other state agencies, municipalities, universities, schools, non-profit organizations and private entities, to encourage healthy lifestyles, science-based education and opportunities in urban areas.

Stamford Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA)

Beginning in the early 1980’s, the waters of Western Long Island Sound showed significant degradation and low dissolved oxygen, caused primarily by nitrogen enrichment from runoff, atmospheric deposition and sewage plant discharges. The Stamford WPCA recently completed and commissioned a $105 million upgrade and expansion of nitrogen removal, which has been effective at eighty to ninety percent nitrogen removal rates since it began operating in the spring of 2006. Since June 2006, the treatment process has removed ninety-seven percent of influent suspended solids and biochemical oxygen demand. Most importantly, since that time the average discharge for total nitrogen was 646 pounds per day far below the 1342 pounds per day permit limit. This translates into an additional 150,000 pounds less nitrogen discharged into the Long Island Sound in a seven month period.


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