Fifty-five years ago, Rachel Carson published her groundbreaking book “Silent Spring.” In it, she bravely informed the public, and challenged scientists and  government to view the damaging health and environmental effects of indiscriminate pesticide use. By doing so, she spurred the environmental movement, as well as changes that included the formation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the banning of DDT use. 

Each year, ECOS celebrates Rachel Carson’s legacy and offers an award for a person who exemplifies her dedication and impact within our community. This year’s recipient was Michael Hickey, the man who blew the whistle on water contamination in his home town of Hoosick Falls. He, along with his wife Angela, were welcomed and congratulated by the many in attendance at the Nov. 13 Rachel Carson Dinner.

After his father’s death from cancer, Hickey began examining a possible link to career employment at a local chemical manufacturing plant. On his own, he did research and learned of the chemical PFOA. Laboratory water testing, which Hickey paid for himself, led to what was to become a major investigation of Hoosick Falls area water. Eventually, Hoosick Falls was designated an EPA Superfund National Priority Clean-up Site, and remediation measures were undertaken by St. Gobain Industries and New York State.

Hickey’s mission may have begun as a personal issue, but soon expanded to increasing public and governmental awareness. The widespread response to concerns over water quality now extends far beyond the borders of his home town.

Hickey’s actions reflect the tenacity and courage of Rachel Carson in pursuing evidence of pollution that gravely affects public health, and he continues his initiatives to this day. In 2016, he received one of the annual New York Environmental Champion awards given by the EPA in recognition of his accomplishments as an environmental trailblazer. ECOS joins the EPA in saluting this modern-day Rachel Carson.

Photo credit: Nancy Parry