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Residents Recognized for Outstanding Environmental Protection Leadership

GreenCape members and local residents receive the Toxics Action Center's 25 Years of Victories award.

Local residents Sue Phelan, Steve Seymour, Sandra Larsen, Janet Kluever, Amanda Murphy, Beth Ferrante, Bobbie McDonnell and others are being recognized for their leadership and work to protect the environment and the health of people living on Cape Cod.

Members of local group GreenCAPE (the Cape Alliance for Pesticide Education) have been selected from more than 100 nominees to receive one of Toxics Action Center’s 25 Years of Victories Awards.

"I congratulate GreenCAPE on this well-deserved award," said Cape and Islands Senator Dan Wolf (D-Harwich). "Citizen activism and participation, often difficult and unsung, is crucial to a working democracy. GreenCAPE's tireless efforts are proof that grassroots involvement makes a real difference."

Award winners were chosen by a selection committee of distinguished environmental and public health professionals and will be honored at the Environmental Action 2012 conference in Boston, Massachusetts on March 3rd. Lois Gibbs of the 1970’s Love Canal toxic cleanup case will hand out the awards and congratulate the winners.

“The leaders of GreenCAPE are tireless citizen watchdogs for the Cape’s environment,” said Sylvia Broude, the Organizing Director of Toxics Action Center. “Recent work to protect Cape Cod’s only source of drinking water from pesticide spraying is only one example of a long history of activism that has won real results for the environment and human health.”

GreenCAPE was formed in 1998 to protect the Cape’s sole source aquifer from contamination. One of their first major victories was winning an effective phase-out of chemically-treated wood on playgrounds across the Cape.

The group was also instrumental in passing the Children’s and Families Protection Act, reducing pesticide use on school grounds across Cape Cod and the Commonwealth, and for that work they received a Green Seal award from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (EOEA). For the past three years, Toxics Action Center has been working with GreenCAPE to stop NSTAR from spraying toxic pesticides across 150 miles of power lines across the Cape.GreenCAPE is also partnering with Toxics Action Center to encourage towns to adopt organic policies and restrict the use of toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers on town-owned lands. 

“We can’t be too careful when it comes to protecting our drinking water,” said Sue Phelan, director of GreenCAPE, an all-volunteer organization. “Pesticides are one of the biggest threats to our water on Cape Cod, and we will continue working to reduce pesticide use Cape-wide.” Phelan works in technical services at Cape Cod Community College. She is an avid organic gardener and beekeeper and she has been living on the Cape for thirty years. 

The 25 Years of Victories Awards recognize 25 of the most successful local efforts to clean up or prevent toxic pollution across New England between 1987 and 2012. Those years correspond with the 25 years that Toxics Action Center, an environmental group based in Boston, has been working with neighborhoods and community leaders.

Toxics Action Center was inspired into being by the mothers of Woburn Massachusetts who took action to protect their health of their children when the chemical company W.R. Grace contaminated their drinking water. The Woburn leukemia-cluster eventually claimed the lives of 14 children. In response, in 1987 a group of public health and environmental advocates created an organization to help residents who faced their own Woburn situations.

Toxics Action Center – known in those days as the Massachusetts Campaign to Clean Up Hazardous Waste – began organizing citizens to pass ballot initiatives to protect citizens from harmful toxic waste. The first initiative increased enforcement, cleanup, and citizen access within Massachusetts’s Superfund system. Now Toxics Action Center has offices in every New England state and works with more 80 communities each year.

“With Toxics Action Center’s help, what started as a small group of committed citizens with no money or leverage grew into a powerful citizen movement waging a campaign against a corporate giant with the best chance we will ever have to be successful,” says Phelan. “We are thankful for Toxics Action Center. They have provided a guiding hand, brilliant planning and invaluable support to GreenCAPE over the years.”

Toxics Action Center has worked side by side with more than 700 communities and directly trained more than 10,000 individuals.  This is one of many awards for GreenCAPE, which was honored in recent years with the John O’Connor Award for Grassroots Leadership, the Green Seal from EOEA, and many others.

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