2016 Aquarion Environmental Champion Awards

2014 Award Winners

On Saturday, June 7, Aquarion Water Company announced the winners of its fourth annual Aquarion Environmental Champion Awards at a ceremony held at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo. The ceremony was part of the 2014 Wild Wine, Beer and Food Safari, the Beardsley Zoo’s annual fundraising event.
And The Winners Are:
Large Business Category - United Technologies Corporation - Hartford, CT


  U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (right) presents the Aquarion Environmental Champion Award in the Large Business Category to Cheryl Cundall (left), Director of Environment, Health & Safety for United Technologies Corporation.  

United Technologies Corporation has operated in Connecticut for almost a century. Today it employs about 25,000 people at 12 locations across the state, including the facilities of Pratt & Whitney, Otis, Sikorsky, Carrier, and the Hamilton Sundstrand, predecessor to the corporation’s new UT Aerospace Systems.

Since 1997, UTC has worked voluntarily to reduce energy use, greenhouse gas and other chemical air emissions, water consumption and waste generation from its operations. Through an integrated combination of best practices, major investments, formalized goals and targets, and the support of thousands of hours of employee volunteer time, UTC has dramatically reduced its environmental footprint.

For example:

  • At Sikorsky’s Stratford facility, a multi-faceted environmental sustainability program has won that team the Green Coast Sustainability Award for two years in a row. This resulted in partnerships with a range of local environmental groups, as well as the creation of an environmental education walk in Stratford. The plant has also installed a 10 megawatt cogeneration plant along with 450 solar panels.

  • Pratt & Whitney’s Middletown facility recently put into place a water conservation plan that will save 15.4 million gallons of water a year. In East Hartford, recycled paper and cardboard come back to the plant as washroom towels and tissue. These and other programs have earned the facility, the State’s Green Circle Award for three years in a row.

  • In Windsor Locks, United Technologies Aerospace Systems has also achieved admirable successes in reducing environmental impacts. In addition, four green teams have helped clean up surrounding neighborhoods, install edible gardens and composters for Hartford Public Schools. They have also cleaned up the Connecticut River shoreline. In addition, the company also awards cash grants statewide to important green initiatives.

UTC’s overall numbers show greenhouse gas reductions down 27 percent from 2006, water usage reduced by 46 percent, and total industrial waste reduced by 45 percent. The company clearly demonstrates that its passion for what it calls “relentless improvement” extends to its environmental commitments.


Small Business Category - Tara Farm Rescue - Coventry, CT


  U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (right) presents the Aquarion Environmental Champion Award in the Small Business Category to Agnes Curry (left).  

In 2013, the Town of Coventry purchased 36 acres of beautiful land using a combination of local funds and support from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Long managed as forest land, the parcel is near existing Town-preserved open space, as well as private land trust property. It is strategically located to protect water quality and streamside habitat in the Thornton Brook corridor and associated wetlands as well as the Hop River, into which it flows.

The Thornton Brook Preserve also offered the community the opportunity to add to the walking trails available on the other conserved properties. But, the Town had little ability to pay for the construction of those trails.

Bonnie Jean Gordon, who owns the Tara Farm Rescue operation, stepped up to the challenge by recruiting local 4H members to work with Coventry’s town planning staff to blaze walking trails through the Thornton Brook Preserve.

This involved many hours coordinating volunteers, as well as exploring the property, marking the best trail routes, cutting brush and removing obstructions along the trails – all under a tight deadline. For meeting that deadline, and all their other efforts, we recognize the 4H and John Carlson, Braden Cunningham, Jayden Cunningham, Sandy Cunningham, Agnes Curry, Jeff Curry, Liza Fiume, Alyssa Johnson, Nancy Messino, Madison Reale and Karen Winchow. And, of course, we present special recognition to Bonnie Jean Gordon and Tara Farm Rescue for leadership in marshalling these forces and opening up a natural treasure for the community.


Non-Profit Category (Tie) - Connecticut River Watershed Council - Middletown, CT


  Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Rob Klee (right) presents the Aquarion Environmental Champion Award in the Non-profit Category to Executive Director Andrew Fisk for the Connecticut River Watershed Council.  

In 2013, the Connecticut River Watershed Council organized the 17th annual edition of a massive, multi-state effort called the Source to the Sea River Cleanup. In Connecticut, some 55 groups cleaned over 35 miles of riverbanks, shoreline, islands and trails, working from Enfield all the way south to Old Lyme.

The Source to the Sea River Cleanup required a huge effort to recruit and organize not only volunteers and sponsors, but also volunteers from the sponsoring companies and organizations. In 2013 these included NRG Middletown Power, the Prudential Green Team, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the Metropolitan District Commission and many others. The City of Middletown even leveraged the event’s spirit by hosting a city-wide cleanup event.

At Wethersfield Cove, at least 11 groups tackled over 50 years of trash strewn from cars passing on Interstate 91, giving “the 100-year floodplain a 100-year scrub,” in the words of Jim Woodworth from the Great Meadows Conservation Trust.

Besides tires, cans, mattresses and other expected trash, the teams up and down the river hauled from the waters a headless Buddha, electric guitar, coconut and four messages in bottles. Some volunteers even learned how to identify non-native invasive plants and note the locations for future control work.

For fostering awareness of the links between reckless trash disposal and water quality, and for building partnerships among so many groups through the central part of our state, we congratulate the Connecticut River Watershed Council for their achievements.


Non-Profit Category (Tie) - Housatonic Valley Regional High School’s Environmental Science Class - Falls Village, CT


  Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Rob Klee (right) and Aquarion Vice President of Corporate Communications Bruce Silverstone (left) present the Aquarion Environmental Champion Award in the Non-profit Category to Letitia Garcia-Tripp and her science class students at Housatonic Valley Regional High School.  

After students in Letitia Garcia-Tripp’s Environmental Science classes at Housatonic Valley Regional High School saw the documentary “Tapped,” they were inspired to do something to reverse the detrimental effects that bottled water has on our planet and community health.

Letitia’s students then set out to research the environmental impacts of bottled water. They also conducted taste tests with other students at their school to assess any differences between bottled water sold in the cafeteria, and drinking water from taps found throughout the school.

After developing a detailed proposal and budget for the school to eliminate bottled water, the students presented it to the principal, vice principal and, ultimately, the Board of Education. Their goal was to have money allocated from the budget to install water bottle filling units throughout the school.

Unfortunately, the funding wasn’t available. Undeterred, Ms. Garcia-Tripp applied for and received a $2000 grant from the school’s 21st Century Fund. Then, after discussing the project with representatives of the senior class, they agreed to appropriate $1000 from their funds as a class gift – so great was their belief in the importance of the project.

The first filling units were installed over the spring break. Students are now working with the school store to put inexpensive, reusable water bottles on the shelves. The goal remains to eventually eliminate the sale of bottled water at the school, as well as to find – and fund – additional “real-life” projects that bring the lessons of the curricula home to students and allow them to actually start building the better world they’re constantly told is within reach.


Adult Category - Laurie Doss - Kent, CT


  Connnecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Rob Klee (right) presents the Aquarion Environmental Champion Award in the Adult Category to Laurie Doss (left).  

Laurie Doss chairs the Science Department at Marvelwood School, a coeducational boarding and day school for grades nine through twelve in Kent, Connecticut. Beyond providing outstanding instruction to young scientists for 25 years, she has excelled at being a role model, as a community tireless volunteer working on many fronts, to improve water quality, wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation and many other environmental causes.

At Marvelwood, Laurie and her students have been instrumental in the conservation and stewardship of the Skiff Mountain Preserve and Public Lands, a 700-acre forest in Kent and Sharon that surrounds the school property. Laurie conducted much of the original fieldwork and mapping which led to the forest’s conservation and the required funding. Within this outdoor laboratory, Laurie has engaged her students in the necessary fieldwork, documentation and even construction of an award-winning trail.

Laurie also conducts scientific research on other properties throughout her community, including vernal pools, critical bird habitats and other key components of balanced ecosystems. She manages several bird-banding stations on the Skiff Preserve and other protected properties, and has engaged youth and others in restoring Connecticut’s population of the endangered purple martin.

Somehow in the midst of all this work on behalf of the local environment, she finds time to manage the unique international exchange program she founded. Twice a year, it brings Marvelwood students together with underserved children in eastern Panama to research and learn about bird migrations, macro-invertebrate biology, and cross-cultural conservation techniques.


Student Category - Anuj Sisodiya - Trumbull, CT


  Charles V. Firlotte (right), President and CEO of Aquarion Water Company, presents the Aquarion Environmental Champion Award in the Student Category to Anuj Sisodiya (left).  

While a sophomore at Trumbull High School, Anuj Sisodiya created, managed and even received White House recognition for a host of innovative projects aimed at some of the most pressing environmental challenges facing Connecticut and the world today.

One program developed by Anuj was “Light It but Time It.” It was designed to promote the use of timers on holiday lights, so energy wouldn’t be wasted illuminating them day and night. Using door-to-door campaigning, social media, a website, booths at grocery stores and other means, he distributed free light timers to help townspeople conserve energy.

Anuj also recruited a team of fellow students who devoted 500 volunteer hours to encouraging households to undergo energy audits so they could reduce their carbon footprint. Based on a sample study conducted in his own neighborhood, Anuj showed town officials, energy company program managers, vendors and the rest of the community that the campaign could save a million kilowatt-hours of power in Trumbull, and keep 1.3 million pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. He now plans to extend this campaign’s success throughout Fairfield County.

Anuj has also dug into his own pocket to support environmental causes, donating money he earned as a math tutor to the Trumbull Nature and Arts Center. His support is helping the Center educate young children concerning the importance of making the world a greener place. Aquarion isn’t the first to recognize Anuj’s efforts. He was recently commended by the White House’s Environmental Youth Awards program for his outstanding achievements in environmental stewardship.