Lopez-Carbo Takes on Branch Chief Role

Many of you know our EPA colleague, Maria Lopez-Carbo, because of her wide and varied roles and responsibilities as part of the drinking water program at EPA.  She has been with the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water (OGWDW) for most of her ten plus year career with the Agency.  Maria has just been named Chief for the OGWDW Protection Branch within the Drinking Water Protection Division where she will be responsible for much of the regulatory implementation work that goes on there.  ASDWA thought it might be interesting to share a little of Maria’s “history” with EPA, so we asked her to reply to a few questions…

How long have you been with EPA?  I started working at EPA in July 2004 as an engineer and was named Associate Chief of the Protection Branch.  (Ron Bergman was the hiring official.)   Prior to that, I was working at the Noman M. Cole Jr Pollution Plant — the wastewater treatment plant for Fairfax County.  

You’re known in some circles for your work with the capacity development and operator certification programs.  When did you add these programs to your list of duties?  In 2008, I moved to EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation to certify off road diesel engines. It was fun, and I am glad I tried it out but it reaffirmed that I really wanted a career in water. So when the opportunity to come back to the Office of Water and serve as the team leader of the Sustainable Systems team (responsible for both capacity development and operator certification initiatives) came up, I jumped at the opportunity to return.  This, by the way, was the second time Ron Bergman (then Chief of the Protection Branch) hired me for a position.

What were some of the deciding factors that made you say ‘yes’ to the Branch Chief’s position?   Prior to returning to the branch, I was serving as the Office Director’s Special Assistant.  I enjoyed the job and learned so much about how the Agency operates but I’m an engineer at heart and I really missed the implementation aspect of the program. So, when the opportunity to return to the Branch and work with Mindy Eisenberg again as Associate Branch Chief came up, I had to go for it.  When Mindy left, it just seemed like a natural progression.  By the way, this became the third job Ron Bergman (now Acting Director for the Drinking Water Protection Division) hired me to do and it’s now a running joke in the Agency. 

As they say, the third time is the charm.  What’s your favorite thing about this job?  That I can proudly say that I work collaboratively with our stakeholders to provide Americans with safe drinking water every day.  Just a quick aside…Fairfax Water Authority has six storage tanks on West Ox Rd in Fairfax, VA.  I stopped by one day to show my 5 year old daughter the tanks and explain how that water would end up in our taps.  She then asked me to go to her school and talk about drinking water.  At the end of the talk, my daughter stood up and said “I’m so proud of my Mommy; she makes sure we can wash our hands, take baths, and fill up our pool for school ‘water play days’ in the summer!”  That made my day.

So, congratulations, Maria, and thanks for sharing these insights!  We look forward to working with you in this latest phase of your career.