Three in territory receive EPA's Environmental Quality Awards


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ST. THOMAS - The Environmental Protection Agency has announced the Virgin Islands winners of the annual Environmental Quality Awards.

EPA Region 2 presents Environmental Quality Awards annually during Earth Week - the last week in April - to individuals, businesses, government agencies, environmental and community-based organizations and members of the media in the region, which covers New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and eight federally recognized Indian Nations. The three V.I. recipients honored recently at a ceremony in Manhattan are Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, Carib Sun Energy and the USVI Hotel and Tourism Association and Valerie Peters.

The awards recognize significant contributions to improving the environment and public health in the previous calendar year.

The Ivanna Eudora Kean High School and Kean science teacher Kirk Lewis were honored for building the first aquaponics and vegetable farm in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Lewis created the farm in 2012 because he wanted to inspire the student members of the Future Farmers of America to promote healthy lifestyles and develop a positive awareness of the environment.

"The farm provides sustainable food without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers, as students learn how to harvest both fish and vegetables," according to the EPA statement.

From the private sector, Carib Sun Energy was honored for promoting renewable energy products in the territory.

Founded in 2012, the company has certified electricians and plumbers with decades of experience in the manufacturing and residential sectors.

"They have harnessed indigenous energy sources and have committed to help U.S. Virgin Islands communities burdened by high energy costs with competitive pricing and quality customer service," the EPA said.

In the two years it has been operational, Carib Sun Energy already has successfully produced more than 39 million watts of solar energy and saved 34,302 pounds of carbon emissions, having achieved the equivalent benefit of 52 trees, the EPA release said.

A group of people and organizations that helped to establish the Blue Flag program in the Virgin Islands received the final award locally. The USVI Hotel and Tourism Association, the Virgin Islands Conservation Society, Valerie Peters and Blue Flag USVI all are named on the award.

The territory boasts seven beaches that have "Blue Flag" status under the international Blue Flag program. To achieve a blue flag, a beach or marine facility must meet 32 criteria, including environmental education and information, water quality, environmental management and safety and services.

The USVI Hotel and Tourism Association, with partner organizations such as the V.I. Conservation Society, undertook the challenge of Blue Flag certification in 2009 and continues to demonstrate that the U.S. Virgin Islands has the ability to implement and sustain the International Blue Flag certification label, according to the EPA.

Valerie Peters, a long-time environmental volunteer, helped champion the introduction and implementation of the Blue Flag USVI program, the release said.

EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck presented the awards at a ceremony at EPA's offices in Manhattan on April 23. Another ceremony honoring the award recipients is taking place in Puerto Rico next week.

"Today we celebrate the exemplary work of people who work tirelessly to protect the environment and give their time and energy to create a cleaner and healthier future for us all," Enck said in a written statement. "Their extraordinary contributions serve as an inspiration to all who strive for a more sustainable environmental future."

For information about the Environmental Quality Awards in EPA Region 2, visit www.epa.gov/region02/eqa/.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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