Staff Reports, iberkshires

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. ‘ Hoosic River advocate Judith Grinnell has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for her efforts. She was the only Western Massachusetts award recipient.

Grinnell, who founded the Hoosic River Revival in North Adams, was one of 11 New England recipients of the 2015 Environmental Merit Award. Some 27 awards in all were presented on Wednesday, Earth Day, in Boston.

Grinnell was presented with an individual award for her vision to turn the channeled Hoosic River into an ecologically friendly and accessible waterway as it cuts through the city. The river’s current concrete flood control chutes, built by the Army Corps of Engineers nearly 60 years ago, have prohibited fish passage and severely curtailed the river’s use.

The revival group, founded in 2008, has sought to work with the Army Corps of Engineers, state and local officials, environmental groups, community members and other stakeholders itorenewing the river while retaining flood controls. Past floods had devastated parts of the city until the chutes were installed. Private fund raising and grants have been used to hold community conversations and investigate designs and river potential.

Most recently, the group was awarded $500,000 to begin design work on the South Branch of the river, which winds along the Noel Field Athletic Complex and leads into Western Gateway Heritage State Park, which is being redeveloped. Another $8.3 million has been earmarked to advance the project.

In announcing the award, EPA says, “Grinnell raised over $100,000 in private donations and secured many times that in grants, including state for a pilot restoration project and to cover the initial design. In just a few years Grinnell has become proficient in technical details of river restoration, which helped her get funding for a numeric flow model that is critical to the restoration. Grinnell’s energy and enthusiasm have inspired many others to join the effort, thus making possible her vision of a beautiful and ecologically healthy river in North Adams.”

Also receiving individual awards were Tom McNichol, nicknamed the “Fearless Flotsam Fighter” for his Charles River Clean-Up Boat in Boston; Jean Hill and Jill Appel, who spearheaded the plastic water bottle ban in Concord; Bill Kirk, an assistant editor of the Andover Townsman, who advocated for participation in Solarize Mass, leading to Andover residents investing $2.6 million in solar electric; Mary B. Griffin, former commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game, for her tireless advocacy on environmental protection particularly in the last year of her eight-year term in 2014; Boston Bruins owner Charlie Jacobs for involving the Bruins and Boston Garden in the Rock and Wrap It up! program to avoid wasting food that could feed the hungry.

Rich Bizzozero, director of the Massachusetts Office of Technology and Technical Assistance, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for his nearly 25 years’ work in the state’s Toxics Use Reduction Act program. He also served for eight years as executive director of the Interagency Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Administrative Council, the governing body for the toxics law. He has expanded the OTTA’s outreach to businesses with a focus on the value of assistance given to companies.

The Environmental, Community, Academia & Nonprofit Award was presented to Green Decade Newton, founded in 1990, which advocates for bike and pedestrian safety improvements, the protection of water systems and safe alternatives to toxic chemicals in homes and gardens.

Business, Industry, Trade and Professional Awards were presented to Professional Wet Cleaning Work Group of Lowell, local dry cleaners that have made the switch from perc, a solvent commonly used in dry cleaning, to a cleaner, healthier system, and to Gorton’s Seafood of Gloucester for its history of environmental responsibility and its work to reduce its carbon footprint.

The Governmental Award was given to Mass Leading by Example, a state program to lead by the state Department of Energy Resources to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions across state properties. Working with utilities, the program helped distribute 682,466 LED and high-efficiency fluorescent lights with an estimated annual savings of 31 million kWh and $4.4 million.

This year’s Environmental Merit Awards program was dedicated to Mayor Thomas Menino, who died in 2014 after two decades as Boston’s mayor, and who championed environmental projects in the city he led and loved.

“Mayor Menino dedicated his time and energy to making Boston a better place to live, work and visit,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “For his strong environmental advocacy in putting Boston on course to being the most climate prepared and resilient city in the country, EPA wishes to commemorate this award ceremony to him.”

In dedicating the merit awards to Menino, EPA noted that because of Menino’s robust environmental agenda, the city reduced greenhouse gas emissions, emerging as a national leader in climate action, and was first in the nation to adopt a green buildings standard for large private developments.

In addition to the Environmental Merits, EPA New England recognized two Federal Green Challenge award winners: VA Boston Healthcare System was recognized for its laundry operation and the Vermont Army National Guard Ethan Allen Training Site in Jericho that hosts the Army Mountain Warfare School and an 11,000 acre firing range.

EPA New England also recognized Worcester State University as the winner of the 2014 National Food Recovery Challenge; Wellesley College and Parkland Medical Center, Derry, N.H., received honorable mentions.

The 2014 National WasteWise New England Award Partners of the Year were University of Southern Maine in Portland and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston; Norwalk (Conn.) Hospital received an honorable mention.

More information on this year’s award winners can be found here.