Massachusetts Citizens and Organizations Recognized by EPA for Environmental Achievements | U.S. EPA News Releases


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BOSTON – Six individuals and two organizations in Massachusetts were recognized today by the US Environmental Protection Agency for their work to protect New England’s environment. These environmental leaders were among 25 recipients across New England honored by EPA’s New England office at the 2019 Environmental Merit Awards ceremony at Faneuil Hall.

Edward Kunce of Brockton was recognized with a lifetime award for his many years of service to the health and environment of the state, and former EPA Regional Administrator Michael R. Deland of Marion was recognized posthumously with a lifetime award. In addition, awards were given to Isabel Tourkantonis of Billerica; Andrew Davison of Sandwich; Robin Chapell of Walpole; Ivey St. John of Charlestown; the Central Massachusetts Regional Stormwater Coalition of Spencer; the Provincetown Stormwater Program in Provincetown, and the Town of Andover along with the City of Lawrence.

“The New England individuals, businesses, and organizations recognized today have shown dedication to the environmental and public health in their communities,” said EPA New England Administrator Dennis Deziel. “We are proud to present awards to these stewards of New England’s air, land and water.”

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. Each year EPA presents lifetime achievement awards for individuals. Also at the merit ceremony, EPA New England announced that The Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition in Springfield would be honored for its role in children’s health. Established in 2006, the coalition works to improve the lives of families, individuals, and communities affected by asthma in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts.

The 2019 Merit Award Winners from Massachusetts were:

Lifetime Achievement awards

Michael R. Deland – posthumous

Michael R. Deland was regional administrator of EPA’s New England office from 1983 to 1989. Deland was appointed regional administrator by EPA Administrator William Ruckelshaus. In this role, the Massachusetts native was central to the cleanup of Boston Harbor, having filed the lawsuit in 1985 on behalf of the EPA that led to the cleanup of one of the nation’s dirtiest bodies of water. He once was called “the most aggressive environmental law enforcement official in the nation” by an attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation.

Deland first came to EPA in the early 1970s as a lawyer, went on to join a consulting firm before returning to New England EPA as administrator. President George H.W. Bush in 1989 named Deland chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which coordinates environmental policy for the White House. When EPA scaled back staff in the 1980s, Deland wrote a column for the American Chemical Society journal noting the drop-off in enforcement cases was prompting “the question whether the agency can continue to be a viable factor in environmental protection.” Deland was known to consistently seek out expert opinions before making decisions, aware he had to take into account the interests of environmentalists, developers, and economic advisers.

Although Deland always will be remembered for the Boston Harbor cleanup, another of his notable accomplishments had national implications. After Michael overruled an Army Corps of Engineers permit for mall developers to fill in 32 acres of wetlands in Attleboro, the case went to the US Supreme Court. This led to a 1989 ruling that forced developers look for alternative sites rather than filling in wetlands.

Not to be deterred by his physical challenges, Deland used a cane, then crutches, and finally a wheelchair to get to where he had to be amid debilitating and worsening back problems. He was proud to have led a successful campaign to get a statue of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, seated in his wheelchair, at his memorial in Washington. In 1992, Deland accompanied Bush to Rio de Janeiro, where Bush signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Deland was born in Boston in 1941 and grew up in Brookline. He learned to sail during summers in Marion and continued to race even after his walking was limited. He received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1963 before he joined the Navy, where he was stationed in Japan. He graduated in 1969 from Boston College Law School and in 1973 married Jane Slocum.

After Deland’s death in January of this year, his family said in a statement, “We had the great privilege of witnessing our Dad’s perseverance, humor, and steadfast loyalty and determination on a daily basis.”

Edward P. Kunce

From 1986 until 2012, Edward Kunce served as regional director, deputy commissioner and acting commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. For over two decades, Kunce oversaw DEP’s permitting, compliance and enforcement, technical assistance, and emergency response functions. In all these efforts, he showed a commitment to environmental results, a desire to advance innovative approaches, and an ability to collaborate.

His leadership on major, highly complex projects illustrates Kunce’s success. The Central Artery/Tunnel Project created tremendous environmental challenges, including how to handle 30 million tons of excavated, contaminated material. Kunce led DEP’s efforts, working with local, state, and federal partners to develop approaches that resulted in the reuse of excavated material; returning 1,600 acres of land to beneficial uses, the majority for parks and athletic fields; remediation of 27 acres, allowing for development of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway; and adding 6,900 feet of Boston Harborwalk.

Kunce provided similar leadership at the Massachusetts Military Reservation Superfund Site. At a time when the cleanup was floundering, Ed was instrumental in establishing a strategic plan, with scheduled and enforceable milestones, as well as in creating a new management structure that eased the way for more public participation.  These efforts moved the reservation’s cleanup program from failure to success. 

Kunce’s innovative methods include the Environmental Results Program, Third-Party Inspectors, multi-media inspections, and a semi-privatized waste site cleanup program. He successfully promoted new permitting and regulatory requirements that yielded environmental improvements, such as mercury controls on waste combustors that dramatically reduced mercury emissions; diesel retrofit requirements for construction equipment; and permits for natural gas plants resulting in the cleanest plants in the country. He led development of the department’s mobile lab, improving its ability to respond to emergencies and provide real-time data used to assess and prevent, public health threats.

While these achievements are examples of Kunce ‘s successful approach, they provide just a glimpse into his impact on DEP. He fostered an atmosphere where innovation and common sense were part of the discussion of complex problems. He understood that all of the tools in the regulatory tool box – compliance and enforcement, as well as technical assistance and effective communication – are important. Through his efforts and leadership, Ed played a huge role in shaping DEP into the results-driven, innovative and collaborative agency it is today. 


Isabel Tourkantonis

Scientists in municipal government often don’t get the accolades they deserve. Isabel Tourkantonis, Billerica’s director of environmental affairs, deserves recognition for finding workable solutions to complex wetland environmental issues. With two tributary rivers – the Concord and Shawsheen – and many perennial streams, marshes, swamps, ponds, and isolated wetland pockets, the community depends on coordination between departments and applicants, an area where Tourkantonis shines. In addition, Tourkantonis is recognized for daily work doing technical reviews, delineations, restoration plans, vernal pool identification, and permitting. Finally, her efforts to prevent and reduce contamination deserve recognition. Through due diligence and outreach to property owners, she has added critical, biodiverse parcels to the inventory of land set aside for conservation. Within two years, Tourkantonis has helped the town receive: five acres of marsh and floodplains in the Robbins Conservation Area, a wildlife corridor associated with a perennial tributary of the Shawsheen River; a 24-acre land area associated with the Village Crossing Project housing development, largely comprised of bordering vegetated wetlands; and a 1.45-acre Carter Avenue parcel in a scenic segment of the Concord River and an abutting riverfront parcel for the purposes of preserving and restoring a floodplain, riverfront and a buffer zone. Billerica residents do not always recognize efforts to enforce wetland protection rules, nor the struggle to convince individuals to donate land. Tourkantonis takes that burden for the benefit of the community and planet.

Ivey St. John

Ivey St. John, retiree and advocate from Charlestown, was a founding member of the Mystic River Watershed Steering Committee. St. John represents the Charlestown Waterfront Coalition on the steering committee. The Mystic River Watershed Initiative kicked off with a summit in 2008 that focused on water quality, open space, flooding, and industrial contamination in the 76-square-mile watershed. The steering committee was formed in 2009, co-chaired by…

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