Real-World Experience in the Wastewater and Water Fields


Since 1990, the EPA-sponsored Youth and the Environment Program (YEP) in Lowell, Massachusetts, has provided underserved youths with experience in the environmental field. The goal of the program is to introduce young adults to environmental career opportunities and to inspire them to engage with the environment. In March 2019, EPA Region 1 awarded NEIWPCC a grant to run a YEP for the first time in Lawrence, Massachusetts concurrently with the long-established Lowell program. NEIWPCC collaborates with summer youth employment programs in each city, which hire and pay the teens. The programs are run by local branches of MassHire, the career services organization of the Massachusetts government.

The EPA produced this short video about the Youth and the Environment Program in 2016.

During the six-week summer program, several Lowell and Lawrence high-school students worked daily at the Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility, Greater Lawrence Sanitary District, or Water Treatment Facility of Lawrence. There they received a diverse, hands-on introduction to all facets of wastewater and water treatment, including process control, maintenance, and laboratory operations.

The daily routine also included lessons on various environmental topics, such as wastewater, drinking water, water quality, ecology, climate change, resource management and conservation, and environmental history of Lawrence or Lowell.

Weekly field trips that enrich their environmental education, such as visits to the New England Aquarium, Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, and the Deer Island wastewater treatment plant, were also scheduled throughout the summer program.

2019 Lowell YEP students led a tour of the Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility (LRWWU)  for Lawrence students, NEIWPCC employees, and LRWWU employees. Pictured from left to right are Stephanie Gomez, Don Kennedy, Kathryn Piasecki, Jorjany Fulcar De La Cruz, Hilda Frias, Joskar De La Cruz, Amanda Brosnan, Michelle Jenkins, Tessenia Clayton, Jen Lichtensteiger, Cesar Zayas (sitting), Demitri Reis, Michael Cassidy, and Edwardo Ortiz. 

In August the students received their YEP certificates at a graduation ceremony at the Lowell facility.

NEIWPCC coordinates the Lowell and Lawrence programs with help from the EPA, the Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility, Greater Lawrence Sanitary District, Lawrence Water Treatment Facility, the City of Lowell, the City of Lawrence, and MassHire.

A loss of funding led to a two-year hiatus in 2008 and 2009, then again in 2020, 2021, and 2022 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program returned in 2023 thanks to grants from the EPA to NEIWPCC to oversee the program.

New York

In collaboration with EPA Region 2, NEIWPCC administers funding to the National Partnership for Environmental Technology Education (PETE) for a similar seven-week youth program in New York City.

There, young adults from the Bronx worked for the city’s department of environmental protection in various sectors of the water-pollution-control field.

For more information on the Youth and the Environment Programs, contact James Plummer at