PORTLAND, Ore., May 7, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- From preserving Iraq's water resources to seeking federal protection for the Los Angeles River, waterway advocates are being recognized today by River Network and Tom's of Maine as part of the 2012 River Heroes Awards. Now in its 12th year, the awards celebrate those who protect the Earth's rivers and watersheds.
"We're inspired by the important work these individuals and their organizations are doing to make a meaningful impact on water resources around the world," said Todd Ambs, River Network President. "River Network is grateful to Tom's of Maine for its ongoing leadership and support of water preservation and proud that we can spotlight innovative projects that matter to the future of our water."
"Every year we look forward to honoring and sharing the accomplishments of individuals who make the Earth's precious waterways a priority every day," said Susan Dewhirst, Tom's of Maine Goodness Programs Manager. "It's our hope River Network and its grassroots heroes can encourage volunteers to get involved and protect the water resources that are important in their communities."
This year's five exceptional River Heroes honorees are:
Dr. Azzam Alwash — Nature Iraq (Sulaimani, Iraq): Dr. Alwash spent much of his childhood on the edges of Iraq's southern Mesopotamian marshlands and when he left Iraq in 1978, he took with him memories that would inspire a life of activism aimed at restoring and preserving Iraq's ecosystem. After working for 20 years as a soil and environmental engineering consultant in California, Dr. Alwash founded the Eden Again Project, prompted by a report detailing 90 percent of the Mesopotamian Marshlands as "one of the world's greatest environmental disasters." The project led to the eventual formation of Nature Iraq, which now has over 35 staff throughout Iraq.
Terry Backer, Long Island Soundkeeper (Norwalk, Conn): A leading voice for reducing polluted runoff into the Long Island Sound, Terry has developed a program to run sewage-pumping boats for recreational vessels, was a key player in the recent EPA ruling curtailing future mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, and helped reduce sewage dumping into the sound. As one of the founders of Waterkeeper Alliance, Terry has helped spur the creation of nearly 200 waterkeeper organizations in 21 countries.
Susan Heathcote, Iowa Environmental Council (Des Moines, Iowa): Trained as a scientist with a passion for improving Iowa's water quality, Susan has sought to bring public awareness to the natural processes governing water quality, helping found the first volunteer monitoring program in the state. Susan has provided technical leadership on the Council since 1996 on many issues, including water quality, water monitoring, agricultural drainage wells, livestock manure management and Iowa's hazardous site program.
John Wathen, Friends of Hurricane Creek (Tuscaloosa, Ala.): For more than 20 years, John has worked to protect the Hurricane Creek from the varied sources of pollution threatening its life and health. John consistently steps into the fray when the creek is in danger. He was one of the first waterkeepers to go to Tennessee to investigate a coal ash spill in the Emory River and when the BP Oil Spill began, he immediately went to the Gulf to document damage. In 2011 when John's home and community were destroyed by a tornado, after ensuring people were safe and that supplies were distributed throughout the community he turned his attention to leading restoration efforts in the creek.
George Wolfe, L.A. River Expeditions (Venice, Calif.): George organized, led and documented the first paddling trip on the entire length of the Los Angeles River and later his actions proved integral to the EPA's designation of the entire river as a "traditional navigable waterway," giving it all the federal protections of a real river. Since then, George has helped guide safe, recreational-educational canoe and kayak excursions down the river and, in 2011, helped create the officially sanctioned pilot boating program.
In addition, each year River Network celebrates one individual's accomplishments with the James R. Compton Lifetime Achievement Award. This year's honoree is:
Sally Bethea, Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper (Atlanta, Ga.): For more than two decades, Sally has demonstrated extraordinary leadership in her quest for clean and plentiful water in the Chattahoochee River Basin and throughout Georgia. Her achievements have touched the lives of millions of Georgians providing them with cleaner creeks, streams, lakes and rivers for their drinking water and recreational needs. Early in her career, Sally addressed the habitual fouling of the river by the City of Atlanta's sewage treatment discharges and bypasses by leading a coalition in opposition to the city's pollution. The eventual Clean Water Act citizen suit led to one of the largest and most effective sewage treatment overhauls and cleanups in the country.
About River Network
River Network is leading a national watershed protection movement that includes more than 2,000 local, state and regional and local grassroots organizations whose primary mission is to protect rivers and watersheds. For more than twenty years, River Network has worked closely with watershed protection groups from coast to coast – building the capacity of state and local organizations, assisting people grappling with water and environmental health problems, protecting habitat for fish and wildlife, developing blue cities and reducing our country's use of water and energy. Visit us online at www.rivernetwork.org or on Facebook.
About Tom's of Maine
Tom's of Maine is a leading natural products company focused on oral and personal care. TOMs sells high quality toothpaste, mouthwash, dental floss, deodorant, bar soap, and body wash products. The company has a long-standing commitment to supporting people, communities and the living planet. For over 40 years, Tom's of Maine has sponsored hundreds of nonprofit efforts by giving 10% of its profits back to organizations that support human and environmental goodness and encouraging employees to use 5% (12 days) of employee time to volunteer. Tom's of Maine employees regularly contribute suggestions for improving the company's high sustainability standards. And their ideas, from wind power to ways to improve recycled and recyclable packaging options, are critical to the company's sensitive way of doing business. Tom's of Maine enjoys partnering with its consumers, vendors and community organizations to support lasting, positive change that is good for people and the planet. Visit us online at http://www.tomsofmaine.com/ or at http://www.facebook.com/TomsofMaine.
SOURCE Tom's of Maine