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Earth Day: DEP Staff Reflections

April 22, 2020 01:00 PM
By: DEP Staff

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I participated in a rally at the first Earth Day, in 1970. It was at the campus of Delaware Valley College of Science and Agriculture. I’ve continued to work in protecting the environment ever since.  — Elwood Blake, Conservation District Representative

As a Source Water Protection (SWP) Facilitator at the Safe Drinking Water Program at DEP Northwest Regional Office, I am participating in a bi-national workgroup of professionals who are developing and implementing meaningful, realistic SWP strategies in the Greatlakes region. I’ve helped in shaping several initiatives, recruited showcase communities, and provided guidance regarding drinking water regulations as they apply to SWP in the United States vs. Canada. — Christopher Berkey, Source Water Protection Facilitator

Earth Day gives us the opportunity to celebrate our conservation and restoration efforts on the Great Lakes while recognizing the many contemporary challenges that face us both now and in future decades. It is a moment of admiration and inspiration.  — Timothy J. Bruno | Chief, Office of the Great Lakes

Earth Day’s arrival, when the ground is warming up and green leaves popping out, is always something to look forward to. Our Inspections and Enforcement section may only include four of us, but we’ve made great progress in protecting the waters of Pennsylvania. I investigate unpermitted activities at smaller wetlands, such as when property owners don’t seek a permit for filling or draining them. Many small wetland restorations eventually add up to acres of these important water filters, stormwater surge moderators, and wildlife habitats being protected from oblivion.  Carol Canigiani, Aquatic Biologist

Griffith Tree Planted Tracks 2020.jpgThis is a tree planting at the site of a streambank restoration project on Griffith Farm on Turtle Creek, Union County. This tree is over 20 feet tall and was planted early this spring, prior to the office closure. On Earth Day and every day, I’m proud to help make projects like this one possible.  — Jason Fellon, Watershed Manager

The first Earth Day in April 1970, I was in 5th grade (known as B Form) at the St. Albans School, my boy’s prep school in Washington, D.C.  Our means of “protest’ was to wear surgical masks to draw attention to air pollution.  Who knew that 50 years on, we would again be wearing masks, but for a different reason.  Let us hope that the 100th Earth Day is similarly remembered and enjoyed by our grandchildren singing magnificent hymns because we and our leaders had the wisdom and wherewithal to lay the technological and regulatory bricks to rebuild our environmental monument. — Ben Greeley, Safe Drinking Water Program

Earth Day highlights an opportunity to be grateful for all the flourishing parts of life. Whether walking through a park, within a forest, or across a development, all surroundings come from the grace of Earth. Each year, we reflect on the call to respect the resources that our planet offers; and each day, the environment remains an essential part of our lives. Working for DEP allows one to continually protect the world we know and love. — Serena Groff, Radiation Protection Specialist

After taking part in the sacrifice of our and our enemy’s bravest in warfare, I felt a need for something larger than myself that made better use of my talents and soul as well as a wish that humans can evolve to a point where active combat is replaced by active peace, through mutual environmentally friendly practices that support sustainability and productive healing. At DEP, I’ve been able to successfully work toward improving and healing our streams, lakes, and rivers. It is with a highly talented team of caring and passionate professionals that I am a significant part of the solution. I’m thankful for my coworkers, partners outside the agency, and our leadership and mission here at DEP.  — Scott Heidel, Water Program Specialist

During this sequestered spring, I’ve found some time to revisit a landmark environmental work: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Carson maintained that every person has a basic right to be protected from any unnatural poison released by another person into the environment. While growing up in northeastern Pennsylvania, I saw mountain faces laid bare by coal mining. The town creeks flowed orange with drainage from abandoned mines and couldn’t support fish, salamanders, or frogs--the creatures kids like to chase on a hot summer day.  I didn’t understand that these surroundings weren’t normal.  After I became a biochemical scientist, teaching at colleges for over a decade and, in 2011, joining the world of environmental protection at DEP Bureau of Laboratories, my understanding of environmental problems and solutions grew exponentially. Science focused on sustaining the environment is incredibly complex, and its challenges are taken up daily by dedicated scientists at DEP and around Pennsylvania and the world. Now, when I visit the coal region, I see mountainsides that have been cleaned of waste culm products, replanted with trees, and adorned with wind turbines in places. The creeks in my hometown are no longer orange and can support aquatic life.  And I know this transformation actually began with one scientific voice in the 1960s that resonated with the world and was joined by many voices and actions over decades of scientific collaboration between DEP and our partners.  I’m proud to be part of the DEP mission and applaud the persistence of all my colleagues working to make every day a better Earth Day. — Pamela Higgins, Special Assistant to Laboratory Operations

Marcus Kohl and Jason Fellon on Turtle CreekWithout Earth Day and the overall environmental movement that started around the same time, I wouldn’t have the role I have, nor would I get to lead all the wonderful and dedicated employees who work for the Northcentral Region of DEP.  Protecting and improving our environment is more critical than ever, and I’m very proud to play a role in that.  — Marcus Kohl, Northcentral Regional Director

Every day is EARTH DAY. April 22 is simply the day we celebrate it.  As a child, I witnessed massive consciousness enlightened to environmental concerns in the early 1970s in a commercial where a Native American paddled down a river in a canoe with a tear running down his cheek as he witnessed the plumes of smoke and litter Americans were living in. Television can be a very powerful, positive tool when used for good.   Kevin Krick, Bureau of Safe Drinking Water Sanitarian

In 1975 my uncles took me fishing at a beautiful pristine mountain stream in the Laurel Highlands, and I caught my first native brook trout. I returned to the stream in 1983 to find it lifeless, having been destroyed by discharges from a strip mine. I decided to make it my life’s work to do anything in my power to preserve and protect our great natural resources from needless impairment. I found my path to facilitate that desire at DEP, where it’s Earth Day every day. Rex Miller, Emergency Response Manager

Having dedicated my career to safe drinking water for all Pennsylvanians, Earth Day reminds me of just how precious and valuable this resource really is. From personal health, to the food supply, even to recreation and mental well-being, protecting Pennsylvania’s water resources has never been more vital to all of our lives and wellness. Let Earth Day remind us to redouble our efforts to protect this most fundamental part of our very being. Robert Page, Sanitarian Supervisor

One just needs to look at the “Blue Marble” photo of Earth taken by the Apollo 17 crew to realize: This is where we live, and Earth’s resources are not infinite. If we don’t take care of our planet, we’ll become only a brief footnote in its history. Earth Day isn’t just one day, but every day.  James Rebarchak, Environmental Program Manager

Earth Day is every day and is for everyone. Earth Day has always been part of me, from my childhood in Jamaica to present. My mom taught me to save eggshells, crumble them, and place them around plants for nourishing the soil. Today it is composting. Our food scraps were never thrown away, but cooked with cornmeal long and slow to make animal food. The peels of oranges, lemons and limes were dried to make tea. Recycling and minimizing waste were natural habits. Janine Tulloch-Reid, Air Quality Facilities Permitting Chief

Earth Day is about taking time in our busy lives to appreciate the incredible planet we live on and the flora and fauna we share it with. It’s a reminder to take care of our home and use its resources sustainably. Whether you participate in a scheduled event or pick up a few pieces of litter around your neighborhood, we owe it to Mother Nature. Nichole Walko, Air Quality Specialist

For DEP’s Chesapeake Bay Office, Earth Day captures the unique, holistic and collaborative initiative between state, county, and local government officials, industry associations, NGOs, academia and citizens, working together to reduce nutrient pollution and improve water quality in our local waterways. Since April 2017, we’ve been working with partners at the county and local level, and getting direct input into the planning and implementation of practices that achieve local water quality improvements and also work best for local communities. Jill Whitcomb, Director, Chesapeake Bay Program Office

I was 11 when my father, an avid environmentalist, took me to a celebration of the first Earth Day in 1970. I have celebrated many Earth Days since then, often with my kids. At every one, I give thanks to Mother Earth for our beautiful planet and thanks to my Dad for teaching me to respect it.  Doug White, Supervisory Counsel

Elk County in OctoberAn interest in Earth Day and similar topics led me to read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Her message motivated me to return to college to learn about ecology and conservation and work in environmental protection. Decades later, the network of environmental professionals and birding enthusiasts from whom I have gained wisdom enable me to share knowledge both professionally and personally. Lori Wise, Water Program Specialist

At the Southcentral Regional Office Radiation Program, we're lowering our carbon footprint by using virtual platforms for inspections and training, reducing many miles of travel while interacting in real time across the state. As a timely example, we're virtually training dentists to lower patients' radiation exposure. Using a medical “phantom,” the inspector shows the dentist a pair of images: one taken using the dentist's current settings, the other with optimized lower-dose settings. We've been nearly 100% successful in demonstrating that the lower dose produces a satisfactorily diagnostic image. Robert Zaccano, Program Manager

For me, Earth Day is a reminder of how important the environment is in our busy lives.  A reminder to do the little things we can all do to help the environment, like turning off the lights, planting trees, reducing, reusing, and recycling.    Ramez Ziadeh, DEP Executive Deputy Secretary

In this way, I consider DEP and its equivalent organizations throughout the country to be true champions of Earth Day. While this special day only occurs once per trip around the Sun, the occasion is a way to remember and recognize the daily efforts of those I am proud to call my colleagues. — Cory Zimmerman, Environmental Trainee 

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