Getting my feet wet: Starting a new job with DEP

Image of a river
April 25, 2014
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Ah, Spring!  A time to shed the gray cloak of winter, celebrate longer days, and get some fresh air.  In addition to these seasonal changes, I also get the pleasure of starting an exciting new outreach position with Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

For the past several years, I worked as a research fellow at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), focusing on communications and outreach within the Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds.  It was an excellent opportunity to learn more about the federal government and national programs that protect our natural resources.

 

Gwen as an EPA mascot

My work with EPA including an occasional stint as a mascot.

 

However, despite my excitement for starting this new job, I must admit that being a new kid on the block is not an easy thing!  In the weeks leading up to my start date, I worried about the large volume of information I needed to learn about Montgomery County and my new Department.  Funny thing is, as I listened to program descriptions and priorities during my first week, I saw an amazing network of connections between EPA and DEP.

 

The Local and National Connection

The National Ocean Policy, one of my primary projects at EPA, supports the protection of our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes to ensure they are healthy, productive, and will benefit future generations.  One section within the National Ocean Policy calls for coordinated actions from government agencies to protect our upstream waterways from pollution (things like pathogens, nutrients, and litter) so that we have vibrant oceans and coasts.

Likewise, Montgomery County is working hard to ensure that its residents have the cleanest water possible. They are expanding restoration projects across the County, cleaning trash out of waterways, hosting stream monitoring programs, and installing RainScapes, such as rain gardens and conservation landscaping, which reduce stormwater runoff.  These efforts help to clean up Montgomery County’s local water bodies, which eventually drain into the Chesapeake Bay and then into the Atlantic Ocean.

The citizens of Montgomery County are directly helping to implement one of the goals of the National Ocean Policy!

I also spent my time at EPA working with our Nutrient Pollution Outreach Team on a harmful algal bloom awareness campaign.  Harmful algal blooms are large overgrowths of algae in water that sometimes contain toxic bacteria that are harmful to human and animal health. An excess of nutrients in the water can contribute to these large blooms of toxic algae and cause problems not only to health, but also to local ecosystems and economies.

These types of blooms can pop up anywhere, even right here in Montgomery County.  Lake Needwood is a popular recreation spot in Rockville that experienced harmful algal blooms just last summer.

 

Image of Gwen at Earth Day event

At my first Earth Day event with DEP. I love talking to residents of the County about their environment!

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

My Green Montgomery provides citizens with green project ideas to help folks make a difference in their daily lives. Simple steps like choosing phosphate-free cleaning supplies, picking up pet waste, or using commercial car washes can help decrease nutrients in our waterways.  This, in turn, will help reduce our chances of these toxic outbreaks that prevent us from enjoying our local recreation areas.  Find more ways you can help make an impact.

It turns out that I had no reason to be nervous about starting this new job, since we have so many overlapping goals and programs.  The best thing about transitioning from Federal to local government is that this is where the action happens!  Federal policies and regulations are extremely important to help give us a framework of how and when we need to take initiatives to clean up our environment.  Local government, however, is where the rubber meets the road and we start seeing tangible results.  I’m excited to jump headfirst into assisting with these projects and meeting all of the wonderful people here in Montgomery County.

Bring on the spring blossoms, bring on the sunshine, and bring on the amazing opportunities in Montgomery County!

– Gwen Bausmith, Outreach and Education Program Specialist, Department of Environmental Protection.  Email Gwen at gwen.bausmith@montgomerycountymd.gov



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