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Rhode Islanders Receive Earth Day Honors with Prestigious Regional EPA Environmental Award


A Rhode Island civil servant, plus a team of five staff members from the R.I. Dept. of Environmental Management will be honored on Wednesday, April 18 in Bostonís Faneuil Hall as EPA presents its annual Environmental Merit Awards for 2007.

The merit awards, recognizing significant contributions to environmental awareness and problem solving, are a unique way that EPA can recognize individuals and groups 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 regionís environment. This yearís competition drew 54 nominations from across New England.

ďOur Environmental Merit Awards are among the highest honors EPA can bestow to recognize environmental accomplishments,Ē said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPAís New England Office. ďI 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.Ē

The Rhode Island Environmental Merit Award winners 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 Rhode Island are:

Individual Environmental Merit Award:

Ronald N. Gagnon
Division Chief, Office of Technical and Customer Assistance, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management

Ronald Gagnonís vision and environmental stewardship has helped reduce human health risks from environmental hazards by taking on several previously under-regulated industry sectors. He has been a constant champion of innovative cross-divisional environmental programs such as pollution prevention, metric and measurement, and the Environmental Results Program (ERP). To Mr. Gagnonís credit, Rhode Island was the first state to apply the ERP model to the underground storage tank sector, and is the first to conduct an interstate comparative study. Ronaldís innovative ideas and leadership have had a positive impact on other State programs and is shared through various mentoring programs. Ronald Gagnonís dedication and hard work has resulted in significantly increasing comprehensive environmental facility audits in under-regulated facility sectors, thereby making the environment safer for the citizens of Rhode Island.

Local, State or Federal Governmental Environmental Merit Award:

The Field Investigation and Remediation Support Team (FIRST)
Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RI DEM)

FIRST is a team of five staff members from RI DEMís Waste Management Division, who came together though a collective desire to improve the progress at the DEMís contaminated waste site programs. Through their creative thinking and hard work, the team members garnered management support to gain and utilize in-house expertise for field investigation work, instead of relying on contract support at clean-up sites. Through in-house training the team gained the necessary expertise and performed extensive field work at clean-up sites -- work done previously by contractors. Through this work, FIRST quickly began to demonstrate its importance by making an early discovery of MtBE, a gasoline additive, in groundwater samples of a public water supply, immediately leading to its closure. Over forty assessment and remediation projects have been completed since the teamís inception. In 2006 alone, their accomplishments included the closure of five leaking underground storage tank sites (LUSTs). The FIRST team is truly a grass roots story of staff vision, ingenuity and success, particularly relative to LUST site closures. Their work results in cost savings, remedial actions, and faster site closures which supports economic growth in Rhode Island by encouraging land re-use and redevelopment.


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