Martha Clarvoe and Mary Ashwood, former members of the Otsego County Burn Barrel Education Committee, were among the individuals and organizations in New York state honored recently by the Environmental Protection Agency with its Environmental Quality Awards.
The awards were presented April 23 in New York City by EPA Regional Coordinator Judith Enck in recognition of “outstanding achievements in protecting the environment,” according to a media release from the EPA.
“Today we honor those who advocate for a better environment and give their time and energy to make the world a healthier and cleaner place,” Enck said in the release. “The people and organizations we honor today are truly making a difference, and we thank them for their part in helping us shape a more sustainable environmental future.”
Clarvoe and Ashwood were recognized for their 15-year effort to eliminate trash burning in the region. As members of the Otsego County Burn Barrel Education Committee, the pair analyzed EPA data showing dioxin pollution from burning plastics, conducted public education in the area and successfully lobbied the state Department of Environmental Conservation to adopt a regulation banning the open burning of household garbage.
``I got involved in the issue because I was troubled by how my friend Scott Peterson’s quality of life was compromised by all of his garbage burning neighbors in Roseboom for which he could get no satisfaction from either the DEC or the state troopers because there were no real laws banning the process in rural areas. Michael Whaling shared a lot of information with me on the dangers of garbage burning at this time and I knew it was an issue that had to be fought for,’’ said Ashwood in an email.
``It was always amazing to me for all the laws we do have that there wasn’t one banning this practice that is unnecessary and unhealthful. Most people burn recyclable materials so the argument on the economics of it is ridiculous. In addition to that, people always talked about why go after small time garbage burners when there is industry which pollutes our planet so much more. To me the issue was let’s stop what we can stop especially when we have the knowledge about what dangerous chemicals we are producing when burning _ all in the name of convenience and cost,’’ she added. ``It [the ban] was needed for protection so that if there is a problem, a person can appeal to the state police or the DEC and not have to fight for their rights to clean air and quality of life.’’
Ashwood, who chaired the committee, said it was a privilege to work with all the members whose varied backgrounds contributed to the success of the campaign.
``And above all my righthand friend/woman Martha.
Martha and I were constantly buoying each other up. When she was feeling defeated I’d get another wind and when I was feeling down, she was cheerful and ready to go at it,’’ Ashwood said.
Clarvoe, who currently serves as the President of the Otsego County Conservation Association board, said Tuesday that she believes the award was for everyone who helped make the trash-burning ban a reality.
``It’s an award that I think of for the entire committee because we all worked on it,’’ she said. ``I think Judith is recognizing all the people in New York who worked on the issue.’’
Clarvoe said she and Ashwood met Judith Enck when she was working for then Governor Elliot Spitzer. She told us it was important we were out there. If the government doesn’t receive complaints about things, it’s harder to bring about change.
``People’s voices do make a difference. Somebody’s listening,’’ she said.
Clarvoe said she stills sees trash-burning going on and encourages people to complain and ask to have the burning ban enforced.
``Word needs to get out that somebody will enforce it,’’ she said.
Clarvoe and Ashwood were among six individuals, 17 organizations and one high school student who were recognized.
Environmental Quality Award recipients are chosen from the following categories: individual citizen, environmental education, press and media, business and industry, non-profit organization, environmental or community group, and federal, state, local or tribal agency.
The recipients come from within Region Two, which includes New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, The U.S. Virgin Islands and seven federallyrecognized Indian Nations.