Boston — April 22, 2008 — The Volunteer Lake Assessment Program, known as VLAP, was honored in Boston’s Faneuil Hall as the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented its 2008 Environmental Merit Awards.
The awards, given out since 1970, recognize individuals and groups who have made significant contributions to environmental awareness and problem solving. VLAP was one of 77 nominees from across New England and one of 38 winners.
“These awards are among the highest honors EPA can bestow to recognize environmental accomplishments,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA’s New England Office.
VLAP began in 1985 as the idea of two volunteers looking for a way to protect a single lake. Last year the organization, part of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES), enlisted more than 500 volunteers to protect some 175 lakes and ponds.
Ossipee Lake Alliance and Green Mountain Conservation Group jointly work with the program to protect Ossipee Lake and its bays and rivers by conducting annual deep water monitoring. The data collected through VLAP makes it possible for state biologists to assess the long-term quality of the state’s lakes and to help residents and visitors play a part in protecting water quality in the lakes they use. By sampling water regularly, volunteer monitors help create a history of the water quality that is critical for protecting and improving state lakes and ponds.
Before VLAP began, 50 state lakes and ponds were sampled every 15 to 20 years, making it impossible to determine long-term trends. More than 20 years of data has allowed the state and local lake associations develop long-term water quality trends, identify pollution sources and put in place ordinances and management systems to protect the state’s water and its future.
The EPA award comes four years after DES’ then-commissioner Michael Nolin targeted VLAP’s coordinator for elimination as part of a plan to meet mandated budget cuts by laying off DES employees. The plan sparked anger from lake associations and the state’s Legislative Fiscal Committee, and Nolin ultimately relented. He left the agency in 2006.