Every spring, just in time for Earth Day, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2 announces their Environmental Quality Awards recognizing individuals and organizations who have “contributed significantly to improving the environment during the prior year” in New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Among this year’s honorees is John Lipscomb, patrol boat captain for the environmental organization Riverkeeper.
Since 2000, Piermont resident Lipscomb has headed Riverkeeper’s patrol boat program, traveling approximately 6,000 nautical miles each year up and down the Hudson River between New York Harbor and Troy to conduct pollution patrols and scientific studies.
“I was really surprised and pleased when I heard of this award - I didn't know that I had been nominated,” Lipscomb said. “I'm honored to be recognized by the EPA this way."
“Riverkeeper's relationship with the EPA is extremely important for the Hudson River and the public we serve. The power of the EPA to correct past wrongs against the Hudson and prevent new ones is profound. So it is very nice to see Riverkeeper's efforts and mission applauded by EPA.”
Lipscomb has been at the forefront of Riverkeeper’s large scale pollution cases such as St. Lawrence Cement and Lehigh Northeast Cement Company and the historic ExxonMobil case and settlement on Newtown Creek.
“It's important to understand that I am only one part of a talented and dedicated team at Riverkeeper and that this award is the result of all our efforts combined. We achieve through team effort, not as individuals. So this recognition by EPA belongs to the entire Riverkeeper organization.” he added.
He has also spearheads the organization’s “Swimmable River” campaign.
Lipscomb explains that “One task of the Riverkeeper patrol boat, along with partners from Lamont‐Doherty Earth Observatory and Queens College, is to monitor the river for sewage contamination.”
And how is the water? According to Lipscomb, “The results are varied. On average, the Hudson fails to meet federal water quality standards for swimming 1 ½ days per week, and it is sometimes difficult to predict when or where high levels of sewage contaminants will be found.”
“We post the results of these tests on the Riverkeeper website within days and emailed to thousands of Hudson Valley residents in a monthly report including a narrative explanation of the findings,” he added.
“I can't imagine a better recipient of EPA's award than John Lipscomb. Nobody works harder, reaches out to more people or achieves more great things for the Hudson's environment than John. Really, he is the heart and soul of Riverkeeper.” said Paul Gallay, Executive Director & Hudson Riverkeeper.
According to Chris Sebastian, public affairs representative for the EPA, “Recipients of these awards are drawn 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.”
Sebastian added that, “Honorees aren’t necessarily scientists by training. They come from all walks of life. Some are simply concerned citizens who see a threat to our environment and work to get it fixed. And by honoring them we hope to encourage others to be as diligent.”