Department of Environmental Protection Thursday announced 21 organizations across the Commonwealth will receive the prestigious 2017 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence for 16 projects that represent the very best in innovation, collaboration, and public service in environmental stewardship.
“The Environmental Excellence Awards show just how many Pennsylvanians, from fourth-grade students to factory owners, care deeply about the air, land, and water in their communities,” said Gov. Wolf. “We all benefit, as their commitment to tackling important environmental challenges improves our quality of life statewide.”
The award-winning projects remediate acid mine drainage, take fresh approaches to environmental education, reduce emissions and greenhouse gases, conserve energy, implement green municipal infrastructure, prevent pollution, reduce waste, conserve water, and restore the health of rivers and streams in locations across Pennsylvania.
Any individual, business, school, government agency, or community organization in Pennsylvania was eligible to apply for the award. DEP chose the winners from more than 50 applications, a 25 percent increase over 2015-2016.
Although past winners may submit applications for different projects each year, more than half of this year’s awardees are first-time recipients.
“Every year we’re impressed anew by the ingenuity and commitment Pennsylvanians bring to environmental stewardship,” said DEP Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “It’s exciting to see the interest is growing.”
The awardees will be recognized at an event hosted by DEP and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council on April 25 at the Hilton in downtown Harrisburg.
The winners of the 2017 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence are:
-- “Building STEM Skills through Aquaponics,” by Riverbend Environmental Education Center and Norristown Area School District (Montgomery County) — Almost 500 seventh graders learned about ecosystems, farming, and sustainability and gained science, technology, engineering, and math skills as they grew strawberry plants and fish together in aquaponics systems installed in three middle schools.
-- “City of Pittsburgh 100 Percent Biodiesel Project,” by Optimus Technologies (Allegheny County) — Twenty-five of the city’s fleet of 1,038 vehicles were equipped with technology to optimize their performance on biodiesel fuel. Operational challenges typically associated with biodiesel, such as fuel gelling and filter clogging, were eliminated, resulting in smooth operation and a 6.44 percent reduction fleetwide in greenhouse gas emissions.
-- “Fall Brook Acid Mine Drainage Remediation,” by Tioga County Concerned Citizens Committee — Mine drainage had brought Fall Brook, a tributary to the Tioga River, to the level of battery acid. A system of gravity-flow underground pipes now routes the water to limestone beds that absorb pollutants and increase pH level to help restore water quality and aquatic life in both the brook and 3 miles of the Tioga.
-- “Helping Our Earth Field Project,” by Nittany Valley Charter School (Centre County) — Students applied in-class and in-field instruction to develop and implement their own stewardship plan that promotes carbon sequestration through native landscaping and wildlife habitat at a nearby rural location.
-- “Making a Difference in the Community and Lake Erie Environment by Recycling Plastic Bags,” by Iroquois School District (Erie County) — Wanting to improve local waters and wildlife habitat, students in grades 4-6 reduced their community’s use of plastic grocery bags and increased plastic bag recycling. After conducting research, they concluded the lack of curbside pickup makes it difficult for people to recycle plastic bags. They created receptacles at school and started a recycling competition. In two months, the school recycled more than 68,000 plastic bags.
-- “Merck Cherokee Water Conservation,” by Merck Cherokee Pharmaceuticals (Northumberland County) — Cherokee right-sized its wastewater treatment plant equipment and processes to reduce water use and greenhouse gas emissions. Water use decreased from more than 5 million gallons/day (MGD) to less than 2 MGD. Energy efficiency improvements reduced electricity use by 6.5 million kWh per year, equivalent to more than 4,500 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
-- “Modeling Biomass Excellence,” by West Branch Area School District (Clearfield County) — The school district shifted its central boiler plant to locally grown, sustainably harvested woody biomass to reduce oil consumption by 75 percent, or about 57,000 gallons annually. Carbon dioxide emission will be reduced by about 949,057 pounds/year.
-- “Mulberry Street Two-Way Conversion,” by City of Lancaster (Lancaster County) — Green infrastructure, including permeable pavers and vegetated curbs, was installed in a Complete Streets approach to reduce stormwater runoff and associated pollutants, improve traffic circulation and pedestrian safety, and increase economic visibility for businesses on Mulberry Street.
-- “Parking Garage Lighting Retrofit and Best Practices,” by Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (Allegheny County) — In five municipally operated garages in the city, metal halide light fixtures were retrofitted with LED fixtures with occupancy and daylight sensors. Kilowatt hours of usage dropped an average of 57 percent, for a savings of $123,000 in the first 9 months.
-- “Quittapahilla Creek Garbage Museum Improvements,” by Quittapahilla Creek Garbage Museum (Lebanon County) — Quittie Creek is often saturated with plastic trash. The museum raises citizens’ awareness of this dark underbelly of our throw-away culture. Expanded programs, clean-up events, and other improvements led to more on-site visits by school groups, scout troops, other organizations, families, and individuals, helping people to see their world and themselves differently.
-- “Saving Energy to Save Wildlife,” by Philadelphia Zoo (Philadelphia County) — Educators created an innovative program to encourage zoo visitors to make energy conservation behavior changes after participating in an exhibit on how ocean acidification is negatively affecting coral reefs.
-- “South Campus Energy Project,” by Community College of Allegheny County — The physical plant was revamped with new boilers, electric chillers, lighting, ventilators, and plumbing to reduce natural gas usage and lower water treatment and maintenance costs. Summer natural gas use decreased from more than 2,000 MCF (thousand cubic feet) to 2 MCF per month.
-- “Tanoma Passive Abandoned Mine Discharge Remediation Trompe,” by Evergreen Conservancy (Indiana County) — Improvements to this existing passive treatment system increased the amount of iron oxide removed from Crooked Creek to rejuvenate its water quality and keep its designation as a Cold Water Fishery. Educational programs inform citizens on how the system works and the importance of acid mine drainage remediation.
-- “Tire War,” by Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, Keep Huntingdon County Beautiful, Keep Juniata County Beautiful, PA CleanWays of Mifflin County, and Keep Perry County Beautiful — In an annual contest to win the “Gold Rim Award,” these organizations pick up old tires from local residents to keep them off the landscape and get them properly recycled. But everyone’s a winner, as thousands of tires are collected and ultimately turned into useful products, such as athletic turf and road surfaces. (photo)
-- “Water Education Day,” by Columbia County Conservation District — At Briar Creek Lake Park, eighth graders learned that “good water = good life” by participating in activities that helped them identify their water sources; understand how their water is treated; learn what macroinvertebrates tell us about water quality; and draw connections between pollution, water quality, and soil health.
-- “WikiWatershed Website,” by Stroud Water Research Center, Avondale (Chester County) — GIS maps, real-time data, mobile apps, and other tools equip teachers, students, local governments, and community organizations to monitor their local stream and watershed health, determine specific location stormwater runoff, and learn how to predict and change human impact on freshwater ecosystems in Pennsylvania.For more information and past winners, visit DEP’s Environmental Excellence Awards webpage.