Waterkeepers Chesapeake Honors Local Clean Water Champions

Awardees recognized for work on environmental justice and preventing sewer backups 

TAKOMA PARK, Md. (October 7, 2021) – Waterkeepers Chesapeake announced their 2021 awardees during last night’s 5th annual In Defense of Water awards event at Patagonia Old Town. Assateague Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips received the Waterkeeper Outstanding Win (WOW) Award for her work fighting for clean water and environmental justice for communities in the Lower Eastern Shore and coastal bays region. Natasza Bock-Singleton received the Water Warrior Award for her volunteer community activism to bring attention to and solutions for sewage backups in Baltimore homes. 

“We are thrilled to honor Kathy and Natasza for their crucial work to protect and improve the water quality in our local communities,” said Betsy Nicholas, executive director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “Kathy has spent the better part of her career defending water quality so that more Marylanders are protected from toxic pollution. Natasza stepped forward when her community needed her and fought against the sewage backups in their homes. Both exemplify how through grit and perseverance, one person can make a difference in securing a safer environment for all.”

Phillips was recognized with the WOW Award for her impressive career as the Assateague Coastkeeper stemming back to 2002 when she dedicated herself to protecting the Lower Eastern Shore from pollution. Her work was centered in the community through representing the area residents, responding to their issues and concerns, and elevating their voices to bring about change. Some of her key accomplishments include building a coalition to block off-shore oil drilling in Maryland, appealing state permits on stormwater and CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) resulting in substantial improvements to those permits; tracking down local violators and achieving state enforcement; serving as a voice for local water bodies; and always being a strong advocate who is willing to speak truth to power. Phillips has also been a mentor to many community activists, fellow Waterkeepers, and local watershed groups. She can be proud of her work that has resulted in extensive improvements to the regulation of industrial poultry operations, protecting her community from contaminated runoff. 

Bock-Singleton, recipient of the Water Warrior Award, coordinated teams of residents to help clean out and disinfect homes when her neighbors started experiencing sewage backups. Sewage backups can be costly and pose immediate and serious health risks for residents who experience them. She also developed proactive measures with the Department of Public Works Stormwater Engineers to limit sewage backups, map underground streams, and track related data. Residents used this information to implement stewardship programs of local storm drains and stream culverts, which resulted in 90% reduction in sewer backups into buildings and up to 75% reduction of street flooding during “wet weather events.” She was nominated by Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper Alice Volpitta.

This event also launched the year-long celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act (CWA50) with celebrations, story-telling, and advocacy to set the clean water agenda for the next 50 years. The CWA 50th website is coming later this month.

More information about In Defense of Water here: https://waterkeeperschesapeake.org/indefenseofwater2021/