By Nesmarie Negron
Last November, I traded in my NYC commuter shoes for my hiking boots and embarked upon a Central American adventure to help address water quality issues in Costa Rica. I spent two months working in San Jose, as part of the American Fellows Program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of State and promotes the exchange of professionals throughout Latin America.
Facing many of the same water quality challenges as the U.S., the Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment (MINAET) was interested in learning about our regulatory and voluntary framework for addressing surface water contamination (the Clean Water Act), guidelines for developing watershed plans to restore and protect waters, and nonpoint source initiatives in Puerto Rico which could also be implemented in Costa Rica to address nutrient and pathogen contamination in water bodies.
In addition to sharing EPA’s experiences, I also had the opportunity to be involved with some of MINAET’s ongoing projects, including the United Nations Environmental Programme’s REPCar (Reduction of Pesticide Runoff in the Caribbean) Project and environmental management plan inspections, where we monitored the progress of energy, water, and recycling programs in a variety of industries.
It is no accident that this phrase meaning “full of life” is so commonly used in Costa Rica. Ticos (Costa Ricans) are some of the most vibrant and welcoming people I have ever met. My favorite activities in San Jose were admiring pre-Columbian gold and jade in the city’s museums, listening to musical performances at the National Theater, and learning how to dance the Costa Rican Swing at a local dance school. However, the real adventures were outside the capital during offsite meetings. It was then that I had the opportunity to see the beautiful natural resources MINAET is working hard to protect.