As an intern for the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), I am interested in seeing how various environmental policies are implemented and received by the public on the local government scale.
Since my high school environmental science class, I have wanted to take a more involved stance in environmental issues that exist within and outside communities, such as water quality and carbon emissions. Growing up in Potomac, MD and living feet away from the C&O Canal, I know how critical these problems are for the surrounding area.
I loved when we went out of the classroom and monitored nearby streams to judge the health of the ecosystem. It was a great way to see firsthand how the various organisms work together/coexist in one system. At the same time though, I was shocked by the amount of waste and trash that had risen in the area around the stream. The class could see firsthand how stormwater runoff and pollution could rapidly decay the health and overall quality of life of streams.
In my freshman year at American University, I was a member of the University College Sustainable Earth Program. It was built around many of the concepts I had learned in my high school class, but focused more so on the role of human activity in ecosystems. The course addressed multiple human impacts in ecosystems, such as pollution, runoff, and over-fishing. We took several trips to the EPA, State Department, National Geographic, and many other organizations to learn about the different voices present in much of the environmental issues that we face today.
My time with Sustainable Earth culminated with a campus wide water audit to determine the state of our water efficiency efforts. Our results showed that student’s long showers were wasting gallons and gallons of water. To make matters worse, the increased amount of water was running off into the Potomac River and polluting it with toxins and chemicals nearby. Finding out my school was not as sustainable as I thought, made me want to work with the government and organizations to try and create effective changes to the global system.
Between my freshmen and sophomore years at College, I interned with Greenpeace in their Grassroots Department and learned more about environmental activism and grassroots campaigning. I pursued topics I am interested in, such as deforestation and water pollution, and was able to go out in the field to see the campaigners at work. However, toward the end I found that activism was not the path for me and I wanted to focus more on government policy.
All of my work, in high school, college and at my previous internship, has led me to my new internship at the Department of Environmental Protection. DEP takes an active role in protecting the Potomac River, preventing stormwaterpollution, monitoring stream wildlife, implementing sustainability efforts and working with County government on environmental policy.
As I start my internship, I look forward to meeting the challenges ahead and witnessing how sustainable change is built. I am grateful to have the opportunity to intern for the DEP’s Division of Policy and Compliance and hope to put the skills I have gained in the past to better the people that reside in my local community.
-Daniel Mahoney, DEP intern summer 2014