Internship

An Internship that Wasn’t a Waste

By Sarah Martynowski

During the summer, EPA hosts several events to provide interns with enriching experiences in the D.C. metropolitan area. Last summer, we visited the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant, located along the Potomac River. Designed to treat an average daily flow of 370 million gallons of wastewater per day, Blue Plains is the largest treatment plant of its kind in the world. It’s known globally for its state-of-the-art technology and innovative research.

We began the tour at the point where 1,800 miles of pipes bring both raw sewage and stormwater into the plant from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. The first step screens and removes grit. Then the wastewater moves through primary and secondary treatment. Primary treatment is a physical process that removes floating materials, while secondary treatment is a biological process that removes organic matter. And while most treatment plants stop after primary and secondary treatment, the advanced system at Blue Plains continues the process to remove nitrogen and phosphorous that can hurt local waterways. The treated water then passes through filters and is disinfected before flowing into the Potomac River.

Blue Plains is currently constructing an anaerobic digestion facility and a thermal hydrolysis process to further treat the solids that are removed in the treatment process. The digesters will produce enough biogas to generate 10 megawatts of electricity: enough to provide one-third of the plant’s own power requirements. The thermal hydrolysis process will create “Class A” biosolids that can be safely applied to land as a fertilizer.

DC Water is also working to improve treatment of its “combined sewer system,” meaning that storm water and wastewater come together when it rains. A massive tunneling project called “the Clean Rivers Project” will capture excess flows. Currently, many of these combined sewers become overloaded during storms and raw sewage overflows into local rivers. When the tunnel system is complete in 2025, most of these excess flows will be captured and conveyed to Blue Plains for treatment. As a result, DC Water expects to reduce overflows by 96 percent.

Our tour was an excellent opportunity to learn about wastewater treatment plants, beyond just the information found in my environmental textbooks. I may never operate a wastewater treatment plant, but I think it’s important to understand how they work and their vital role in keeping our waters clean and healthy.

About the author: Sarah Martynowski is a senior at the University of Cincinnati majoring in environmental studies and political science. She was an intern for EPA’s Office of Water during the summer of 2014.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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We Can All Benefit from Learning More About Our Environment

By Nneamaka Odum

When I was young, I wondered how the earth worked. It wasn’t until attending a special middle school, that I was able to begin my environmental education. As I continued to learn, my passion for the environment grew. My friends who learned with me were all interested in protecting the environment as well. We frequently talked about environmental news, and we especially talked about our future careers. Some of my friends, like me, have gone on to study environmental science, wildlife, and even conservation. I can imagine what it would be like if everyone received the education and resources we did.

Since starting my internship here, I’ve learned that EPA has lots of interesting publications on topics from climate change to asthma control, and much more. And, anyone can get these publications for free – this includes parents, teachers, and schools. So, order some for students and help them start learning about the environment today.

The more kids learn about the environment, and how the earth works, the more they’ll benefit.

Even as a senior in college, I now use these publications in my classes to brush up on environmental science knowledge and share public health information with my family members. Recently, I learned how high energy usage can not only be a result of using appliances, but it can also be caused by water usage in homes.

At any rate, even if you’re not a young student, it’s always good to stay informed!

About the author: Nneamaka Odum is a senior studying Environmental Science and Policy at University of Maryland. She works as an intern in EPA’s Office of Web Communications.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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EP…Yay

 

By Gyeongbae Jung

It’s 8 AM. I wake up, shower, put on some clothes, and struggle to find matching socks as I wonder why I didn’t to go to bed earlier. The struggle continues as I get ready to bike to my internship at EPA. I’m not a very good biker, but I lie to myself every morning about how good I am to convince myself to make the trip. I bike past Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, downtown, and the myriads of tourists taking selfies in front of the White House.

Interning at EPA this summer has been a bit surreal for me. I remember I used to stare at these big marble buildings in total awe when my family visited D.C. years ago. Mini me would try to picture what they would look like from the inside and, well, I’m here now. My childhood wonder and imagination have quickly been replaced with rows and rows of doors that lead to unknown offices filled with cubicles, employees, and the hopes and dreams of the American people. As I do my daily walk upstairs to my office, I can’t help but imagine how many people have done the same before me.

I’m an intern at the Office of Web Communications (OWC), or “the office of extreme Facebooking” as my friends would like to call it. I figured nothing would have prepared me more for this internship than the hours I spent procrastinating on social media during finals. But, honestly, that’s a very shallow way to describe the important work this office does. OWC synthesizes content and news, and shares it with the public through various social media channels. According to the American Press Institute, 44% of Americans receive their news through social media. As peoples’ dependence and connectivity to the internet continues to grow, so will the importance of modern media outlets as a way of sharing information with the public. OWC helps the public learn about environmental news and information in 140 characters or less.

Today is the last day of my internship at the EPA. It’ll be 8 AM tomorrow, I’ll wake up, shower, put on some clothes, and once again struggle to find matching socks. I’ll try to lie to myself again, but this time about how I won’t miss the intern struggle. I feel like this time my morning lie won’t be very effective. I sincerely loved my time here, the work I did, the people I met, and the cause I supported. People call it the EPA, but for me it’ll always be the EP….yay.

About the author: Gyeongbae Jung is a sophomore at American University studying environmental science. He works as an intern in the EPA’s Office of Web Communications.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Intern Experience

By Lacey Marsh

Growing up in Colorado is sure to turn anyone into an environmentalist. From the time I was a kid, I remember being concerned for the Earth. As I got older and began to understand just how much damage humans can do to the environment, I changed small habits in my life, like using reusable bottles and bags. I got my family to set up recycle bins in their homes! Although this was making an impact, it didn’t seem like enough. I went back to school to get a better understanding of the environment and ways to preserve it.

With my passion for protecting the environment, I was eager to accept the offer as a summer intern at EPA. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew I wanted to absorb as much as possible. I was surprised to discover all the ways EPA works toward their mission of protecting human health and the environment. Apart from getting the message out to the public and advising people on what they can do to help preserve the earth, there is another side of the agency. From ensuring environmental laws are not violated to sending emergency responders to disaster areas, EPA plays a vital role in resolving environmental issues across the country.

I worked in the Office of Web Communications where I learned about public outreach, the processes to develop and run a website, and website analytics. I developed infographics that are being shared on the EPA’s Facebook page. I learned from other offices about their role in the agency’s mission.

Overall, I am satisfied with my intern experience at EPA. After receiving a steady paycheck for 7 years straight, the idea of not having an income for 2 months was unnerving. However, in my opinion the pros far outweighed the cons. I learned much more than I thought I would, both about myself and about being a professional. The intern workshops helped me to feel more confident about my resume, and the seminars helped me gain an interest in career paths that I had not even considered before. I am grateful for the opportunity to come and live in our nation’s capital and say that I was a part of an agency that strives to have a positive impact on the world (literally and figuratively). Unlike being paid hourly, I was in control of how much I gained in experience and knowledge, and that will last longer than any amount of money I have earned in previous jobs.

About the author: Lacey Marsh is an intern with the Office of Web Communications.  She will earn a second Bachelors degree in Environmental Studies in December 2013.  Lacey is a Colorado native who enjoys hiking the endless trails of the Rocky Mountains

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Remember summer?

studentSummer is a well deserved break from the rigorous classroom learning that makes up ten months of our lives each year. It is a time to discover who we are, and pursue our interests. For some this means relaxing at the pool, going to camp, working a summer job, or traveling. For high school “soon to be junior” Merissa, this summer has been life changing, as she has embarked on a marine biology journey interning at the Woods Hole Science Aquarium.

Each day was another adventure as she did everything from greeting the aquariums hundreds of daily visitors, to attending lectures about careers in marine science. Merissa, along with the other interns, fed the animals and cleaned the tanks; they also worked with the kids at the touch tanks, and participated in both classroom and hands-on studies. She recently dissected the stomach of a seal in order to determine fish consumption which helps partnering organizations set regulations on fishing, in order to keep up the fish populations in the area. The aquarium also takes on the task of rehabilitating injured animals. For example, they are currently hosting a sea turtle that was beached, as well as two seals, including one that was blinded by a shark attack.

From an early age, Merissa has spent time in Cape Cod.  Now, this learning experience has given her the tools to analyze it from a different perspective and also notice how the environment is changing.  She realized that beachside housing developments threaten marine organisms and ruin their ecosystems. Rock walls, or jetties, built to prevent further beach erosion are crushing and burying eggs that have rested on the coasts for incubation or to hatch by marine life, endangering various species.

Merissa knows there is a lot more work ahead for her and the aquarium in order to create proper balance between man and marine life.  She sets a great example for how we can take advantage of our time off from school and explore the field that we are interested in.

Sammy Berman was a summer intern at the EPA working in the Office of Regional Administrator in Boston. She is a junior at Gann Academy High School and is interested in marine biology.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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