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New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

Media Center

DATE: May 5, 2017
CONTACT: Jim Martin, (603) 271-3710

NHDES Staff and Programs Recognized by U.S. EPA

Boston, MA – The US Environmental Protection Agency Region One (EPA New England) recognized former New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) Commissioner Tom Burack during its 2017 Environmental Merit Award ceremony on Wednesday, May 3. Tom Burack received the Ira Leighton “In Service to States” award. The NHDES Drinking Water and Groundwater Bureau’s Be Well Informed program and the NHDES Watershed Bureau’s Soak Up the Rain NH program were also recognized at the event.

The namesake of the Ira Leighton “In Service to States” award, passed away in 2013, after serving 41 years at the U.S. EPA. The New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC), the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM), the Northeast Waste Management Officials' Association (NEWMOA), in coordination with the New England State Environmental Commissioners and the EPA New England, initiated the award to honor him. In recognizing Tom Burack, who recently finished 10 years of service as commissioner of the NHDES, the award stated that he has had an outsized impact in the state, the region, and nationally. Considered a man of unequalled integrity and superb listening skills, he has a passion for not just improving, but revolutionizing how government works to achieve environmental protection.

The NHDES Drinking Water and Groundwater Bureau (DWGB) was awarded a Government Merit Award from U.S. EPA Region 1 for its Be Well Informed program, which allows well owners to test their water and get treatment options. Using a federal grant, the created an online application to take information entered by the well owner from a water test lab report and evaluate treatment options for multiple contaminants, at varying concentrations. A resulting report interprets test results, summarizes health risks and provides recommended water treatment options. That guidance has educated homeowners about their well water and treatment methods, and a test of nearly 3,000 private wells found more than half exceeded standards for naturally occurring contaminants. This tool highlights the importance of testing private wells.

Soak Up the Rain NH, an innovative NHDES program unique among New England states, also received a Government Merit Award for its work with citizens and local partners encouraging practices that protect and restore New Hampshire waters from pollution caused by stormwater runoff. The team works with homeowners and students, local officials and nonprofits,  municipal staff, and landscaper training programs, to name a few. SOAK NH provides training and outreach materials and has participated in watershed-based professional events, Discover Wild NH Day, the 4th Grade Drinking Water Festival and Science Fair, and joined USEPA Region 1 at the 2016 Boston Flower and Garden Show. The SOAK Facebook page and website inform homeowners how to reduce runoff, including the NH Homeowner's Guide to Stormwater Management: Do-it-Yourself Stormwater Solutions. Since the program began in 2012, it has worked with about 15 partner groups on 26 installations that include rain gardens, water bars, infiltration trenches and infiltration steps, rain barrels, a dry well and a buffer. The group projects are soaking up an estimated 569,214 gallons of runoff; 12,257 pounds of sediment; 6 pounds of phosphorus; and 16 pounds of nitrogen.

More information about the awards, please visit:

For more information on the NHDES Be Well Informed Private Well App, visit: and for more information on the SOAK Up the Rain New Hampshire program, visit: or

NH Department of Environmental Services | 29 Hazen Drive | PO Box 95 | Concord, NH 03302-0095
(603) 271-3503 | TDD Access: Relay NH 1-800-735-2964 | Hours: M-F, 8am-4pm

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