Community activists earn state’s top environmental awards

MEC to honor Rhonda Anderson & Lynn McIntosh for protecting public health in their communities and beyond

Rhonda Anderson, Detroit resident and Sierra Club organizer, has been named the recipient of Michigan’s highest environmental award in recognition of her role in advocating for the health of Southwest Detroit residents.

Anderson is joined by Lynn McIntosh, a Rockford resident who blew the whistle on the health threats of PFAS in the water caused by Wolverine Worldwide’s tannery near her home.

The pair will be recognized at the Michigan Environmental Council’s 21th Annual Environmental Awards Celebration on Thursday, September 26, 2019, at the Rattlesnake Club in Detroit.

To find out more information about the event, please visit:

Rhonda Anderson – Winner of the 2019 Helen & William Milliken Distinguished Service Award

The Milliken Award is presented annually and recognizes an individual’s outstanding leadership, enduring commitment and extraordinary public service in the pursuit of environmental protection and sustainability.

Rhonda Anderson, of Detroit, recognized that social justice was linked to environmental issues not long after she started organizing 41 years ago. Advocating for overburdened, ignored communities has been her mission ever since. A Sierra Club organizer for nearly 20 years, Anderson has focused her efforts on residents in Southwest Detroit, a region blanketed by industrial pollution with correspondingly high incidences of health conditions, like cancer and heart disease. Every day she has stood with and for residents, challenging powerful interests to change harmful practices.

These positive changes have ranged from decisions to close coal-fired power plants to the purchase of hundreds of homes fouled by oil refinery emissions to the passage of a ban on fugitive dust escaping from piles of uncovered pet coke and other materials.

Anderson was one of the leaders who in 2008 encouraged then-Governor Jennifer Granholm to sign an Environmental Justice Executive Order. She was a major contributor to a Sierra Club report that detailed how the Detroit area’s low-income and minority populations face greater health and environmental challenges because of their proximity to industrial pollution.

Lynn McIntosh – Winner of the 2019 Petoskey Prize for Environmental Leadership

The Petoskey Prize is an annual award recognizing a volunteer activist whose outstanding grassroots environmental leadership is marked by commitment, creativity and courage.  The prize carries a $5,000 gift to the Michigan environmental organization of the winner’s choice.

Lynn McIntosh was dismayed at first when local leaders rebuffed her concerns about the environmental impact of Wolverine Worldwide tannery’s demolition near her home in Rockford. Then she set out to see for herself. Over the next six years, with support from a handful of like-minded citizens, she led a dogged grassroots investigation that grew in scale and scope, entailing interviews, canvassing, Freedom of Information requests, meetings, and water, soil, and fish testing.

All along, local leaders tried to impede the group's efforts—until 2017. That’s when the group presented documentation indisputably proving Wolverine’s practices polluted local drinking water with record levels of PFAS. McIntosh’s inspiring activism prompted local remediation and sparked a state response to PFAS contamination being found in communities across Michigan.

Past winners of the Milliken Award: Joan Rose, Matt Cullen, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, Andy Buchsbaum, Rich Vander Veen, Dave Dempsey, Rosina Bierbaum, Becky Humphries, Faye Alexander Nelson, Lana Pollack, Bunyan Bryant Ph.D., Mary C. Brown, Congressman Vernon Ehlers, Congressman John Dingell, Peter Karmanos, Marty Fluharty, Peter Wege, Peter Stroh, and  Steve Hamp.

Past winners of the Petoskey Prize: Nancy Warren, Mark Covington, Pam Taylor, Bill Craig, Steve Hamilton, Bob Andrus, Blair Miller, Ken Smith, Margaret Weber, Rusty Gates, Carol Drake, Lynn Henning,  Don A. Griffin, Michelle Hurd Riddick, Terry Swier, Diane Hebert, Alison & David Swan, and Debbie Romak.

This year’s major sponsors include: Joanie Binkow, Vivian Day & John Stroh III, Steve & Judy Dobson, DTE Energy Foundation, Paul & Anne Glendon, Eve & Jerry Jung, Olson Bzdok & Howard PC, Lana & Henry Pollack, Schupan, Conan Smith, TOMRA and Nancy Wheeler.

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