Every spring, PEC and Dominion Energy honor organizations and individuals from western Pennsylvania who are leading the way on environmental innovation and stewardship in their communities. This year an independent panel of expert judges reviewed dozens of nominations, ultimately awarding a total of $25,000 to five extraordinary nominees whose accomplishments will be celebrated at the annual Western Pennsylvania Environmental Awards dinner on May 24th.
Our 2018 award winners have made positive impacts on watershed and urban soil health, conservation and trail development, stormwater issues, and more. Please join us in commending this year’s honorees for their outstanding efforts.
Allegheny County Conservation District
Pittsburgh, Allegheny County
The Allegheny County Conservation District (ACCD) earned recognition for its support of Pittsburgh-area communities working to clean up heavy metal contamination in soil on former industrial sites, mostly on vacant or abandoned parcels of land.
In a county with thousands of such properties, municipalities are often under-resourced to address soil contamination on their own. But thanks to ACCD’s Urban Soils program, these communities were able to take advantage of more than $150,000 in testing services, hundreds of hours in free technical assistance towards community and greenspace projects, and activities to promote awareness of soil health and contamination issues. In addition, ACCD has begun conducting its own mapping and research efforts, seeking to better understand the nature and extent of legacy contamination across the urban environment.
Warren, Warren County
Warren-based Allegheny Outfitters’ business is helping the thousands of paddlers, pedalers, and trekkers who flock to northwest Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest each year have a safe and enjoyable experience. But the company also serves as a public advocate and conservation educator, to help mitigate the impacts of increased human traffic on waterways and forest land.
Among the many activities they’ve organized is the annual Allegheny River Clean-Up, a week-long event that draws hundreds of volunteers and community sponsors each year to clean up 30-plus miles of the Allegheny River and two of its tributaries. Additionally, Allegheny Outfitters has adopted a stretch of the North Country National Scenic Trail in the Allegheny National Forest, where they regularly host volunteer staff trail work events. They also support local land and water trail organizations through the sale of commemorative posters featuring popular destinations in the region.
Casselman River Watershed Association
Somerset, Somerset County
The dynamic and volunteer-driven Casselman River Watershed Association (CRWA) is being recognized for its tireless efforts to address water quality issues resulting from abandoned mine drainage pollution in the Casselman River.
Together with local, state, and federal agencies, as well as other non-profit organizations, CRWA has built treatment systems and other innovative solutions to help mitigate decades of industrial impacts on the once-pristine watershed. As a result, water quality in the river and tributaries has been significantly improved. As the region shifts from an industrial economy to one increasingly powered by tourism and outdoor recreation, CRWA also works with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to secure easements along the Great Allegheny Passage and the Casselman River to preserve the aesthetics of its breathtaking landscapes.
Edinboro Lake Watershed Association
Edinboro, Erie County
For years, Edinboro Lake in Erie County has struggled with eutrophication, which depletes oxygen in water and impacts aquatic life, due to an excess of phosphorus and nitrogen in the water.
Thanks to the work of the Edinboro Lake Watershed Association (ELWA), we now know that the vast majority of that nutrient pollution entering the lake comes from non-point sources — largely, stormwater runoff from land development. A 2017 ELWA project confronted the problem by designing and installing stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) on the campus of General McLane High School and Middle School in Edinboro. These stormwater methods capture runoff from approximately 38 acres resulting in approximately 24 pounds per year reduction in phosphorus and 10,000 pounds per year reduction of total suspended solids entering Edinboro Lake.
Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail Shelters Restoration Project
Camp Hill, Cumberland County
The years have not been kind to the 40 picturesque, three-sided Adirondack shelters along the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. Decades of harsh winters have deteriorated the mortar supporting the shelters’ stonework chimneys, causing the stones to shift.
Fortunately, thanks to a wide-ranging collaboration of funders and individual donors from nine states, Friends of Laurel Hill was able to contract an artisan specializing in historic preservation to repair and restore the structures to their original condition.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Dr. Jared L. Cohon
Professor Emeritus, Carnegie Mellon University
The 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes the distinguished career of Dr. Jared Cohon, whose scholarly work in environmental studies earned him seats on various high-level academic and U.S. government panels before he went on to become President of Carnegie Mellon University from 1997 until 2013.
Among his many contributions to environmental policy-making in Western Pennsylvania, Dr. Cohon chaired the Sewer Regionalization Review Panel representing local government, foundations, academia, legal, environmental, water & sewer authorities, nonprofit and private organizations to identify a true regional approach to wastewater and storm water management for Allegheny County.