Inaugural Beach Bash honors clean water heroes

June 5, 2022

The Sussex Health and Environmental Network held its inaugural Beach Bash to Honor Clean Water Heroes June 1 in Dewey Beach. Community members gathered to enjoy music, s’mores, friendship and Delaware's gorgeous natural resources as they presented awards to individuals who have shown their undying commitment to protect those resources and the people who enjoy them.

Many families throughout Sussex County don’t have clean tap water to brush their teeth, bathe their children or cook with. Some of these families are already burdened because of the links between health problems and water contamination. Delaware’s $3.5 billion tourism industry that employs more than 44,000 Delawareans and its farming community that feeds the state both rely on clean water. The event focused on recognizing the importance of clean water to the state’s economy and the public health of Delaware residents.

The Haynes Austin CommUNITY Hero Memorial Award was presented to the family of Joanne Haynes, who dedicated much of her life to fighting for clean water for her neighbors in Sussex County before passing away early this year. “My mother managed to be heard whether they wanted to listen or not. It was insane how much power that little body held,” said Joanne’s daughter Alison Appleton. Joanne’s husband Kenny was very moved by the memorial award in honor of his wife’s work in the community.

John Austin was a noted environmental advocate during his professional tenure at the Environmental Protection Agency and after his retirement working on behalf of the Delaware Inland Bays.

The first Haynes Austin CommUNITY Hero Award was presented to Dr. Mohammad Akhter of Selbyville for his tireless work on behalf of clean water for the people of the First State. 

“The reason they are giving me this award is to recognize each and every one of you. Everyone matters, whether you are a politician, or not a politician, whatever you are doing, you coming here today shows your commitment, and I really appreciate that.” said Akhter.

The Red-Blue Clean Water Awards recipients are: Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del.; Sen. Stephanie Hansen, D-Middletown; Sen. Elizabeth Lockman, D-Wilmington West; Sen. Marie Pinkney, D-Bear; Rep. Larry Lambert, D-Claymont; Rep. Bryan Shupe, R-Milford; Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton, D-Newark; Sussex County Council members Doug Hudson and John Riley; Jack Bucchioni, candidate for Delaware’s 6th District Senate; and Kerri Evelyn Harris, candidate for Delaware’s 32nd Representative District.

Michael Payan of Selbyville, SHEN co-founder, said, “Clean water is not a red or a blue issue. It’s a basic human need. There are families across our state who can’t drink or shower in the water coming out of their taps. That’s unacceptable. Whether you stand for our coastal economy that relies on tourism, for keeping revenue flowing into our great state, or for conserving our beautiful natural resources, you have a stake in the fight for clean water.”

SHEN is a nonpartisan, grassroots coalition of stakeholders in Sussex County working to ensure a clean, healthy environment for future generations. For details, go to

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