Four area youths learned professional environmental protection techniques at the Lowell, Massachusetts, Regional Wastewater Utility this summer, thanks to funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission oversees the program, using an EPA grant of $5,000.
Since 1990, EPA’s Youth and the Environment Program has focused on introducing economically disadvantaged inner city youth to career opportunities in the environmental field. The program promotes environmental education and provides high school students with increased awareness of protecting the environment and water quality within their own communities. This is the 25th anniversary for this summer job skills program.
At the Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility this summer, four local high school students worked at several stations (e.g. laboratory, pretreatment, maintenance, process control, etc.) on a rotational basis, which exposed them to some of the many components of a wastewater treatment plant.
Students were also helped develop a floating wetland system consisting of plants installed into a holding tank of primary clarifier effluent. These students also participated in field trips related to science, water quality and wetland systems. The program has provided the students with an understanding of chemical risks, minimizing the use of toxic substances, public health threats and proper safety procedures working at a wastewater treatment plant and within the collections system. Students become familiar with potential hazards as they relate to environmental management, treatment and pumping, and water-quality monitoring.
The first Youth and the Environment Program was initiated in 1990 and had been ongoing for 18 summers through 2007. Due to funding cuts, it wasn’t until the summer of 2010 when EPA through NEIWPCC was able to jumpstart the Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility Program after a two-year hiatus. Most importantly, the efforts of Mark Young, executive director of the Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility and his entire staff, city manager Kevin Murphy, and the staff at the Lowell Career Center have been unwavering as they continue to devote a significant amount of time and effort to work with these students and support this valuable program.
“EPA is very gratified to work so closely for so long with NEIWPCC, the Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility and the Career Center of Lowell to make this summer job program available for economically disadvantaged youth,” says Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “This innovative program helps introduce young people to a possible career path that is also a great benefit to their local community.”
A ceremony recognizing those involved with the program was held at the Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility in Lowell on Aug. 16.