BOSTON (Sept. 14, 2021) – An individual and a business in Maine were each recognized today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for their work to protect New England’s environment. David Burns of Augusta and Hannaford Supermarkets of Scarborough were among 22 recipients across New England honored by EPA’s New England Office at the 2021 Environmental Merit Awards virtual ceremony.
EPA New England’s annual Environmental Merit Awards are given to community leaders, scientists, government officials, business leaders, schools, and students who represent different approaches, but a common commitment to environmental protection.
David Burns of Maine was honored with an award for Lifetime Achievement. Also recognized with awards were: Hannaford Supermarkets in the business category. Finally, EPA recognized the Maine Rural Water Association; Maine Water and Wastewater Response Network and the Maine Drinking Water Program – Centers for Disease Control for their work along with other New England organizations to protect the public from COVID-19 associated risks and ensuring safe water in New England.
“Initiatives led by individuals like David Burns or businesses like Hannaford have made great strides towards combatting climate change, bringing cleaner air and cleaner water, and ensuring our underserved communities’ voices are being heard,” said EPA New England Acting Regional Administrator Deborah Szaro. “EPA is proud to recognize these awardees’ great accomplishments and their continued efforts, especially throughout the pandemic. They truly make a difference in our New England communities.”
“David Burns served and led with integrity, bringing technical expertise to bear on environmental protection strategies in Maine throughout his career,” said Maine DEP Commissioner Melanie Loyzim.
David Burns, who retired this spring after 38 years with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (Maine DEP), was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from EPA. After graduating from the University of Maine-Orono in 1983, Burns worked in the Bureau of Water Quality Control reviewing wastewater treatment facilities. Soon after, he shifted to the engineering aspects of solid waste projects and landfill operations. He advanced to senior environmental engineer, supervising others in the Solid Waste Engineering Unit and in 2015 became director of the Division of Technical Services. In 2016, Burns was named director of the Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management, the agency’s largest bureau.
Among his many accomplishments at Maine DEP, David played a key role in drafting Maine’s secure landfill regulations. These rules changed the landscape in Maine from open dumps to highly engineered and designed landfills.
David Burns also helped with challenging remediation projects, including the major landslide of a landfill that moved a million cubic yards of waste and clay soils underneath. Burns worked to understand the causes of the landslide and the damage, then developed a plan that included construction of a lined landfill to hold the waste.
In the early days of managing PFAS, Burns became an expert and encouraged DEP and other state agencies to tackle the problem. He has worked with agencies and stakeholders, non-profit organizations and citizens, the legislature, Maine’s Congressional delegation, and Maine DEP staff to address PFAS contamination. After joining the board of directors of the Northeast Waste Management Officials’ Association in 2016, David provided leadership on PFAS and solid waste issues. He was NEWMOA’s treasurer in 2018 and vice chair in 2021.
Hannaford Supermarkets, which operates 183 supermarkets in New England and New York, was recognized with an award in the Business category. In April, the company reached its goal of “Zero Food Waste to Landfills,” a remarkable achievement for a large supermarket chain. Hannaford invested in food waste recycling before it was mandated by state laws. In doing so, Hannaford built a network of partnerships with local businesses and non-profits. The company worked through complexities and remained committed to EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy that prioritizes reducing waste, feeding the undernourished, and sustainably managing what remains. Hannaford partners with local food banks and farmers to maximize the value of unsold food by feeding people first, while also protecting the environment. Agri-Cycle, a Maine-based food waste collection service, has managed 100 million pounds of food waste from Hannaford over the past five years.
Another award Merit Award was given in the Government category for the COVID-19 Ensuring Safe Drinking Water Team, a conglomerate of New England’s state drinking water programs, state water and wastewater agency response networks, and other water sector associations that ensured the safe operations of water utilities during the pandemic. This conglomerate consisted of the Maine Rural Water Association; Maine Water and Wastewater Response Network and the Maine Drinking Water Program – Centers for Disease Control.
It also included from other New England States the Connecticut Department of Public Health; Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection; New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services; Rhode Island Department of Health; Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation; Connecticut Water and Wastewater Response Network; Massachusetts Water Works Association; Massachusetts Rural Water Association; Massachusetts Water and Wastewater Response Network; Rhode Island Water and Wastewater Response Network; Rhode Island Water Works Association; Vermont Water and Wastewater Response Network; Vermont Rural Water Association; New England Water Works Association; and Rural Community Assistance Program.
During the pandemic, water system managers and operators faced staff and chemical shortages, restricted access to assets, and health and safety challenges. In the midst of this, drinking water programs created new guidance around flushing, hydrant sampling, tap sampling and Legionella control as well as designed new protocols that enabled state staff to perform remote sanitary surveys of water utilities. The programs also issued email newsletters; helped with virtual meetings with the state drinking water staff; developed virtual training opportunities; and offered professional training to keep certified operators up to date. While the New England state drinking water programs worked to address the regulatory, policy, and technical assistance challenges of the pandemic, the state water and wastewater agency response networks worked to protect the health and safety of water system managers and operators. Because of their efforts, drinking water in New England remains safe and plentiful, even during the pandemic.
In addition to these Merit Award winners, Janet Coit, of Rhode Island, was given the Ira Leighton “In Service to States” annual award for environmental achievement that has had an outsized impact in the state, the region, and nationally. This award recognized Coit, former director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM), for being a leader in finding ways for the New England states to work as a team. Coit readily engaged in New England regional environmental challenges, including addressing PFAS, responding to climate change, improving water quality, and addressing equity and justice issues. In addition, in Rhode Island specifically, Coit focused on improving natural resource conservation, promoting locally grown food, and addressing the climate crisis. Coit continues her environmental service today, as she currently serves as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Deputy Administrator.
EPA New England each year recognizes individuals and groups in the six New England states who are distinguished by their work to protect or improve the region’s environment. The merit awards, given since 1970, honor individuals and groups who have shown ingenuity and commitment. The Environmental Merit Awards, given for work or actions done in the prior year, are awarded 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 presents lifetime achievement awards for individuals.
For more information on EPA’s Environmental Merit Awards, including photographs from the award ceremony: https://www.epa.gov/environmental-merit-awards-new-england
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