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Fall River and Nantucket firefighters among those being honored for work against toxic chemicals



WALTHAM – Leaders from the environmental, labor, and organizing movements will be honored today at Clean Water Action’s 2023 Annual Celebration, at the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation in Waltham. María Belén Power, the Undersecretary of Environmental Justice and Equity for the Healey-Driscoll Administration, will be giving the keynote address at the event.

“We are excited to honor our 2023 class of environmental champions. All of this year’s honorees exemplify the best of grassroots organizing – working person by person to build power and win campaigns protecting Massachusetts residents from toxic chemicals and creating a just transition to clean energy,” said Elizabeth Saunders, Clean Water Action’s Massachusetts Co-Director.

The 2023 Awardees are as follows:

The 2023 John O’Connor Grassroots Leadership Award is being given to Ayesha Khan Barber, Co-Founder of the Nantucket PFAS Action Group; Captain Nate Barber and Fire Deputy Chief Sean Mitchell, both from the Nantucket Fire Department; and Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts District 8 Vice President, Jason Burns of Fall River. They helped launch a nationwide effort to eliminate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from the fire service and have worked tirelessly at the local and state level to protect firefighters from these toxic chemicals.

The 2023 John O’Connor Award for Canvassing is being given to Amber Schmidt, Clean Water’s Providence Field Canvass Director from 2016 to April 2023. Amber has been organizing communities in New England for over a decade and has been leading canvassing efforts in Taunton, MA to build awareness and community support for stopping a proposed sludge incinerator there.

Beth Kontos, the President of the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, is being honored as a 2023 Clean Water Champion. She also serves as an executive board member of the North Shore Labor Council as well as a Vice President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. She is being recognized for her passionate support of offshore wind, green schools, environmental justice, and equity in the build out of a new green economy in Massachusetts.

Jordan Berg Powers, the former Executive Director of Mass Alliance, is also receiving the award of 2023 Clean Water Champion. Jordan is being honored for his work organizing Massachusetts progressive organizations to collectively identify and elect candidates, strengthen political power, and achieve collective goals, including winning environmental campaigns.

Clean Water’s 2023 Youth Action Award goes to Jennifer Aisha Loveland-Rose. After starting as a field organizer, Jen played a key role in helping develop Clean Water’s relationship with Clean Air Taunton, representing the organization weekly at meetings and helping coordinate activities to bring greater visibility to their fight against a proposed sludge incinerator in Taunton, MA, an environmental justice community.

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