Susan “Sue” Mello, Natural Resources Program Manager for the Boothbay Region Water District, is among the broad range of volunteers and professionals who have been honored as “Clean Water Champions” in Maine as part of a year-long celebration for the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. The 100 Clean Water Champions will be celebrated at a Sept. 29 event on the banks of the Androscoggin River in Lewiston.
From Maine tribal members, scientists, and educators to lake association volunteers, municipal and state government employees, and former elected officials, the list of Clean Water Champions provides a powerful snapshot of how generations of Mainers have worked to advance the Clean Water Act through individual action.
“What can I say? This is beyond huge! Prior to 2014, although the Boothbay Region Water District took seriously the concept of protecting its water sources, Adams Pond, and Knickerbocker Lake, from degradation by pollution, our efforts were only minimally effective. We simply did not have the expertise or human resources to mold a coordinated and effective strategy; never mind do the required field research, make the community connections, creatively acquire conservation and remediation funding, and pull together a state regulatory and peer recognized outstanding natural resource program. However, since Sue’s arrival in 2014, through her expertise, perseverance and outstanding work ethic, the district now does,” said BRWD General Manager Jon Ziegra.
“Sue has changed the narrative of conservation and pollution prevention positively, with her work protecting vital natural resources on the Boothbay peninsula second to none. Sue being recognized as one of the 100 Clean Water Champions of Maine by the Natural Resources Council of Maine is a prestigious and very well-deserved honor. On behalf of the staff and trustees of the Boothbay Region Water District, we could not be prouder of Sue and are profoundly grateful she is on our team.”
“I'm honored to be included in this group and to join in the Natural Resource Council of Maine's celebration of the Clean Water Act's 50th anniversary,” said Mello. The Clean Water Act is as important now as when it was enacted 50 years ago.”
The Champions were selected by the state’s leading environmental advocacy group, the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), from scores of nominations received online for those who have been leaders in river, lake, coastal water, and drinking water clean-up, stewardship, and protection.
“Over the past 50 years, countless Maine people across all walks of life in dozens of professions and through volunteer work have helped protect the waters of Maine that are so crucial to our economy and way of life,” said NRCM Interim CEO and Advocacy Director Pete Didisheim. “Maine’s rivers, lakes, streams, and coastal waters would not be as clean and healthy as they are today if not for the commitment and hard work of these champions, and the many others who also have played a role.”
The passage of the Clean Water Act on Oct. 18, 1972, was driven in part by Maine’s posterchild polluted rivers and relied on leadership from former U.S. Senator Edmund Muskie, local scientists, and advocacy from state-based conservation groups, reinforcing the unique role everyone — from political leaders to businesses and everyday Mainers — has in protecting clean water.
The Sept. 29 event in Lewiston celebrating 50 years of clean water progress is organized by NRCM, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the Bath-Brunswick Regional Chamber, the Associated General Contractors of Maine, the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, and the Maine Water Environment Association.
Other Lincoln County honorees include: the late Lee Doggett, ecologist with Maine DEP; the late Bill Hinkley, chemical engineer with Maine DEP; Barb Welch, president of the board of directors for Lake Stewards of Maine; David Wilkins, advocate for Edwards Dam and Kennebec Restoration; and Deb Wilson, project director of the Damariscotta Mills Fish Ladder Restoration.