BOSTON (Sept. 14, 2021) – Yvonne Bolton, of Marlborough, Conn., was recognized today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for her work to protect New England's environment. Bolton was 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. Yvonne Bolton was given an award in the category for Lifetime Achievement.
Yvonne Bolton of Marlborough was honored with an award for Lifetime Achievement. EPA also recognized the Connecticut Department of Public Health and the Connecticut Water and Wastewater Response Network for their work along with 16 other New England organizations on a team that focused on ensuring access to safe drinking water in New England.
"Initiatives led by individuals like Ms. Bolton 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."
"Yvonne Bolton is a consummate professional who devoted her career to protecting Connecticut's environment," Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes said. "Over more than three decades, Yvonne worked tirelessly locally, at the state level, and regionally on a broad range of important issues. Her thoughtful and steady leadership helped shape Connecticut's federally- recognized coastal management program, improve how we protect Connecticut's water resources, enhance sustainable waste management including implementing extended producer responsibility programs, protect Connecticut residents from hazardous substances through regulations and emergency response, and mentor and develop the next generation of environmental leaders. It is very fitting that EPA has recognized Yvonne with a Lifetime Achievement Award."
Yvonne Bolton was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from EPA for her legacy of achievements while at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CTDEEP). She joined CTDEEP four decades ago as an environmental attorney. She worked to develop regulations and shepherd them through the legislature in her early days at the department and her understanding of science, policies, and the various constituencies was key to the department's success. Bolton modernized and streamlined the state's environmental regulatory programs, from coastal management to water and waste, enforcement, pesticides, and recycling. She also established the department's first data and geographic information system, improving access to information, leading to better -informed decisions.
In addition, as chief of the Water, and then Materials Management Bureaus, she led efforts to maintain funding for and improve management of wastewater treatment plants; establish appropriate water quality standards; improve emergency response to spills; update the state's solid waste management plan; and adopt and revise the state's first FEMA-approved disaster debris management plan. To improve public outreach, she also launched the Solid and Hazardous Waste Advisory Committees. Bolton has also been a member of NEIWPCC's Executive Committee since 2003, helping develop its water resources priorities. And, as a member of the NEWMOA Board of Directors since 2006, she was instrumental in developing the organization's strategic plans and advancing its priorities.
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 Connecticut Department of Public Health and the Connecticut Water and Wastewater Response Network.
It also included from other New England States the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection; Maine Drinking Water Program - Centers for Disease Control; New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services; Rhode Island Department of Health; Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation; Maine Rural Water Association; Maine 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 this Merit Award winner, 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