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EPA awards for Tucsonans well-deserved

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency saluted environmental heroes Thursday, including two Tucsonans whose work well deserves the kudos.

Ann Marie Wolf, executive director of the Sonora Environmental Research Institute Inc., was given an award for reducing pollutants in the Tucson area and improving environmental health for us all.

Tucson City Councilman Rodney Glassman received an award for pushing through ordinances for rainwater harvesting and use of gray water.

At Wolf’s institute, an EPA grant has been used to address environmental health.

Her staff, with community members it trains, has done more than 2,000 home visits and 300 business visits.

They check older homes for lead and refer families to Tucson’s Lead Hazard Control Program, and they develop asthma action plans and help families identify and remove air toxins and other asthma triggers.

The Sonora group has overseen the removal of more than 129,000 pounds of solvents from auto-body shops, and it also visits nail and hair salons and print shops. And it’s now testing our air for beryllium and other metals.

But Wolf is quick to note that these undertakings are a team effort.

“We really have a lot of involvement from the community,” she says, “the University of Arizona Department of Atmospheric Sciences, the Tucson schools, the Amphitheater School District, the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality, the Tucson Fire Department, the state and county Health Departments.

“It’s truly a partnership.”

Glassman, who flew to San Francisco at his own expense for the EPA’s 11th annual Environmental Awards Ceremony, had vowed during his campaign to get water conservation measures enacted. And he did – both with 7-0 votes by the council.

The nation’s first Rainwater Harvesting Ordinance calls for rainwater capturing systems to be part of any new commercial building erected after June 1, 2010.

The Gray Water Ordinance requires that homes built after that date be plumbed for gray water irrigation systems – having a drain for sinks, showers, bathtubs and washing machines separate from drains for all other plumbing, to allow for installation of a gray water system.

An estimated 45 percent of our local water use goes for landscaping. By using gray water and rainwater for irrigation instead, Tucsonans soon will be saving untold quantities of drinking water.

The EPA lauded its award winners for “superb efforts to protect and preserve our air, water and land, and increase awareness of the environmental challenges we all face.”

We salute Wolf and Glassman, too. Thanks to their efforts, Tucsonans will breathe easier and drink better.

Reach Billie Stanton at bstanton@tucsoncitizen.com or 573-4664.

Rodney Glassman accepts an EPA award at a San Francisco ceremony.

Rodney Glassman accepts an EPA award at a San Francisco ceremony.

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