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EPA Recognizes Two Rhode Islanders with Regional Environmental Award

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David Deegan (
(617) 918-1017

BOSTON – The US Environmental Protection Agency today recognized two Rhode Island individuals for their work to protect New England's environment. They were among 24 recipients across New England honored by EPA's New England office at the 2020 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.

"Initiatives led by individuals and groups like this years' awardees have driven progress toward clean water and clean air, built community support for revitalization investments, sparked environmental innovation, reduced waste, and protected the public from exposure to harmful substances," said EPA New England Administrator Dennis Deziel. "EPA is always proud to recognize the honorees' dedication, commitment to partnerships, and passion for success that has led to measurable change." Deziel noted that this year's award celebration – an online video presentation - by necessity differed from past years, but reaffirmed the awards ceremony is more important than ever.

Alicia M. Good and the late Robert Stankelis, both of Providence were given lifetime achievement awards for a career or life devoted to protecting the New England environment.

"It is a special privilege for me to recognize the important work and lasting contributions to environmental protection and conservation by my former colleagues, Alicia Good and Bob Stankelis," said Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) Director Janet Coit. "I am thrilled to join EPA and celebrate these outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award recipients and the decades-long work they have done to protect Rhode Island's environment for the benefit of all."

Alicia Good, assistant director for water resources at the RI Department of Environmental Management, served 37 years with DEM, nine years in hazardous waste programs, then 28 years in water resource protection before retiring in 2019. A professional engineer, she directed programs critical to providing clean and safe water. She ushered in updated water quality regulations in 2006 that strengthened state water quality standards.

Over her career, Good significantly improved water quality through water quality based permits for wastewater treatment facilities and upgrades to infrastructure, including advanced treatment to reduce nutrient pollutant loadings to Narragansett Bay and its tributaries, as well as combined sewer overflow abatement. By 2012, nutrient pollutant loadings to the upper bay from 11 treatment facilities were cut in half and dozens of overflows of untreated discharges in the Providence region were abated. Her leadership led to increased access for shellfishing and improved water quality conditions that attract recreational uses in waters once shunned. Good's dedication improved the quality of life for Rhode Islanders.

RIDEM Commissioner Coit said, "A consummate professional who provided 37 years of dedicated service to RIDEM, Alicia Good demonstrated outstanding leadership in environmental protection efforts and a strong commitment to restoring Rhode Island's water resources. For more than two decades Alicia served at the helm of RIDEM's Office of Water Resources as the department implemented federal Clean Water Act programs to facilitate the upgrade of wastewater treatment infrastructure and the capture and treatment of stormwater. Alicia's hard work led to a significant reduction of pollutant discharges into Rhode Island's rivers and bays, leading to dramatically cleaner waters in our state."

Robert Stankelis, former manager of the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve for over 15 years, leaves a legacy of people, creatures, and places that he made better through his influence. The Research Reserve on Prudence Island in Narragansett Bay is now the foremost place in Rhode Island for salt marsh research and a living laboratory for environmental education. His legacy includes the conservation of additional natural lands on Prudence Island to expand the reserve and enhance its programs. He brought partners together to protect over 225 acres of land, ensuring 85 percent of Prudence Island is protected in perpetuity.

At the same time, Stankelis focused on many successful ventures to improve the facilities and infrastructure of the reserve, including: beautifying the grounds with native plant gardens; replacing a derelict shed with a new education facility; building a new classroom building to accommodate school groups and expand education programs; going green with a suite of new solar panels; and facilitating installation of educational interpretive panels. Most important, however, was the role Staneklis played in expanding programs to make the reserve Rhode Island's leader in salt marsh ecology, long-term monitoring of estuaries, coastal training and meeting facilitation, and environmental education. He was widely respected nationally as a research reserve manager. He was collaborative in interactions with colleagues, and was known as a quiet, thoughtful voice of reason who asked thought-provoking questions.

RIDEM Commissioner Coit said, "Earlier this year after a short battle with cancer, we lost Bob Stankelis, a nationally recognized leader in salt marsh research and environmental protection who led the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve on Prudence Island for over 15 years. Bob had a special combination of qualities; he was passionate and logical, fierce and gentle, dogged and creative, and had an innate high moral character. This national award honors Bob's lasting legacy, which can also be felt and experienced on the waters of Narragansett Bay."

More information on EPA's Environmental Merit Awards, including photographs from the award ceremony: