On March 15, one individual and 17 organizations, businesses, and local governments in Pennsylvania have been selected by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to receive the prestigious 2019 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence.

“Prioritizing and protecting our environment is fundamental to maintaining Pennsylvania’s natural resources and preserving our commonwealth for future generations,” said Gov. Tom Wolf. “I’m so pleased to present awards to these deserving Pennsylvanians and I thank them for their contributions.”

The award recipients were chosen among 28 applicants. Any individual, business, school, government agency, or community organization in Pennsylvania was eligible to apply.

DEP evaluated projects for their degree of environmental protection, innovation, partnership efforts, economic impact, consideration of climate change, and sustainability and results achieved.

“Each of these projects, while unique, works to achieve the same goal of protecting our environment,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “I applaud all of the applicants and this year’s winners, who are on the front lines every day protecting our precious natural resources.”

All award winners will be recognized at a special Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence dinner on April 16 in Harrisburg hosted by the PA Environmental Council.

Individual Lifetime Dedication Award

The Lifetime Dedication Award will be presented to the family of John Waffenschmidt in his honor. Until he passed away in 2018, John was a vice president at Covanta Delaware Valley Resource Recovery Facility in Chester.

Through the Prescription for Safety (Rx4Safety) Program, he lobbied successfully for legislation to allow safe disposal of expired and unwanted medications in Pennsylvania.

As a result, not only are unused medications kept from entering the environment through improper disposal, but they’re taken out of access, helping to combat the societal challenge of overdose and addiction.

John’s personal efforts and contributions, as well as his initiatives through Covanta, helped many Chester residents, particularly children, students, and seniors. His deep commitment to the Chester Environmental Partnership strengthened cooperation between industry and city residents.

He also spearheaded efforts such as a children’s asthma program, the Covanta scholarship program, and countless other initiatives, bringing passionate advocacy, leadership, and financial support to the community.

Awards to Organizations, Governments, and Businesses

Allegheny County

Allegheny Land Trust: Greenprint Planning Tool—With this interactive online map, communities and citizens can learn where green space and environmental challenges, such as landslide proneness and flooding, exist in their neighborhoods. They can improve their planning efforts, for example, by creating needed stormwater management in environmental justice areas that have none or by wisely siting development projects to save future disaster clean-up dollars.

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy: Frick Environmental Center—The conservancy has expanded and diversified its environmental and sustainability education outreach by creating the first municipally owned, certified Living Building that’s free and open to the public. The building incorporates permeable pavement, rain barrels, stormwater retention beds, wastewater treatment, and other features.

Bucks County

New Britain Borough: Wilma Quinlan Nature Preserve Committee: Habitat restoration at the nature preserve—Volunteers carried out a three-year project to clear invasive species; install nesting boxes; redesign trails to prevent erosion; conduct a soil study; install benches; and plant 386 native trees, 119 native shrubs, and wildflowers.

Newtown Creek Coalition: Newtown Common and creek restorationThis streambank stabilization project included coir logs, rain gardens, porous pavement, and a team effort by many volunteers to plant native trees, shrubs, and grasses to help the borough meet its sediment and nutrient pollutant reduction goals.

Butler County

Seneca Landfill: Lego-V compressed natural gas fueling station Converting approximately 22 existing diesel fueled vehicles to CNG will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 515 metric tons per year. This is equivalent to the planting of 13,202 trees, removing 109 additional cars from the roadway or recycling 185 tons of waste instead of landfilling.

Cambria County

Saint Francis University Institute for Energy: Mobile educational laboratory—Teachers and students created a 160-square-foot mobile learning space that demonstrates a solar panel, biomass heating, energy efficiency techniques, wind energy, and sustainable building features. They’ve taken this pint-size innovative educational powerhouse to various locations in the state, enabling over 2,000 Pennsylvanians to enter the tiny classroom and learn about energy and sustainability.

Chester County

Valley Creek Restoration Partnership: Environmental Stewardship and Economic Development in an Urbanized WatershedThis Valley Forge National Historical Park Buffer Replacement Project included the installation of five new deer fence enclosures, including planting and live staking of 4,000 feet on both sides of Valley Creek. VCRP also organized plantings of 4,068 trees and 1,450 live stakes by 542 volunteers along more than 4385 lineal feet of stream, plus rain gardens and a green roof.

Dauphin County

Penn State Extension: Dive Deeper Youth Water Educators Summit—This annual conference has educated about 450 educators over four years, motivating and preparing them to educate youth statewide about critical water quality issues and to develop them into Pennsylvania’s future water stewards.

Erie County

Environment Erie: Reclaim ErieCollaborations with neighborhood organizations turned four vacant lots and blighted properties into community assets with increased green space that offers interaction opportunity, native pollinators, and the potential to increase property values, while deterring illegal dumping and other health and safety hazards.

Erie International Coastal Cleanup Steering Committee: Erie International Coastal CleanupThere are an estimated 2,500 tons of plastic in Lake Erie, and much of it stays close to shore. More than 2,600 volunteers, from school children to adults, each donated at least two hours of time to participate in numerous activities to clean up litter on the shorelines of the lake and tributaries.

Lancaster County

City of Lancaster: Shelley Road green infrastructure—To address persistent flooding that overwhelmed the aging storm drain infrastructure, the city installed bioretention areas, permeable pavement, an underground reservoir, and a step pool conveyance system. As a result, about 2 million gallons of stormwater, over 900 pounds of suspended solids, and 32 pounds of nitrogen are removed from about four acres of streets annually. Click here for more on Lancaster’s Green Infrastructure Plan.

Conestoga Valley High School: CV Recycles—The school’s recycling awareness and action campaign kicked off with creation of a 6-foot-tall sign spelling “RECYCLES” made from metal mesh and filled with recyclable materials. It’s barreled on to collect recyclables equivalent to enough energy to power a convenience store for a year and offset the same amount of greenhouse gases as 10 acres of forest land.

Luzerne County

Earth Conservancy: Environmental Workforce Training Program—Unemployed or underemployed residents are provided free training in surveying skills and technologies as well as job placement assistance. This has created self-sustaining employment and economic empowerment, met local companies’ need for skilled employees, helped to restore brownfield sites, and raised awareness of the environmental challenges related to abandoned mines after the collapse of the anthracite coal industry.

Lycoming County

Ralph S. Alberts Company: Furnace and lighting energy efficiency upgrades—An innovative new furnace system removes degraded polyurethane from the metal framework of amusement park rides so the frame can be reused. Through this and the conversion of 269 bulbs at the plant with LED lighting, Alberts has eliminated 410 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, saved 6,900 MMBTU in natural gas and over 10,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, and saved about $28,000 annually.

Northampton County

Harvest Home Meats, LLC: Conservation practices—Harvest Home is a family-operated, grass-based preserved farm located outside of Bangor on the pastoral northeastern edge of the Lehigh Valley. Richard and Dohl Difebo are the first Pennsylvania farmers to receive the national Leopold Conservation Award.

The family’s cattle are dependent on grass farms that have been in the DiFebo and Ott families for the last hundred years. Initially, Harvest Home Meats’ farms were not entirely grass-based agricultural operations. This status was achieved over the 20-year period between 1994 and present, through the efforts of Richard DiFebo.

Today, the family practices no till farming and cover cropping, rotational grazing, and they have implemented many conservation practices. The family also created the Ott Environmental Learning Campus by fencing and preserving wetlands and installing a bee pollination habitat to promote education of conservation practices.

Northumberland County

Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association: Loyalsock Creek 2018 Pennsylvania River of the Year education program—Volunteers contributed about 1,500 hours to hands-on activities, nature walks, and other programs to teach everyone about watershed restoration, creek access projects, and the value of natural areas.  A scholarship program was developed that enabled Big Brother/Big Sister teams in a local environmental justice community to experience paddling in a natural environment for the first time.

Philadelphia County

Schuylkill River Redevelopment Corporation (two awards): Schuylkill Banks Trail extension south to Christian Trail and Schuylkill Banks Greenway north end bioswale— Schuylkill Banks Trail South to Christian project extended the Schuylkill River Trail 1,400 linear feet south along the tidal Schuylkill River.

The benefits of this project include the expansion of recreation and healthy-living opportunities for the surrounding communities, an enhanced riparian buffer for urban wildlife and migrating waterfowl, shoreline stabilization, improved stormwater management and improved water quality.

The South to Christian trail and greenway project cleared six acres of invasive vegetation from the Schuylkill riverbank, remediated the contaminated soil of this previously industrial brownfield site, constructed 1,400 linear feet of pedestrian- and cyclist-only trail, stabilized 200 linear feet of the riverbank with habitat-sensitive elements such as live staking, planted 127 new trees, 6,544 new native and well-adapted grasses and flowering perennials, strengthened the riparian buffer and created vital habitat for urban wildlife and migrating waterfowl.

The North-End Bioswale project improved 0.49 acres of riparian buffer along the tidal Schuylkill River. One hundred twenty cubic yards of amended soil were added to the area to improve water infiltration. Seven new trees and 3,810 new native and well-adapted grasses and flowering perennials were planted to further stabilize the area and better manage stormwater.

During a rain event, this area can now capture and filter 107,070 gallons of stormwater before entering into the Schuylkill River, decreasing the amount of pollution that enters the river.

Westmoreland County

Westmoreland County Conservation District: Stormwater basin retrofitting educational video—The videos illustrate the function, design, assessment, retrofitting, and maintenance of stormwater basins. During the workshops, 382 individuals watched the video and provided feedback on their understanding of how retrofitting, inspection, and maintenance impact water quality.