June 27, 2016
Aiken, S.C. - María-Ximena Vásquez’s internship with Savannah River Remediation (SRR) holds personal importance as she combines her love of nature and humanity with the nuclear world.
Vásquez and her parents emigrated from Peru to the United States of America in the 1990s. Because her father was an agricultural engineer, Vásquez said she grew up with a love of nature and spends much of her life traveling and exploring.
“Nature has always been calming to me,” Vásquez said. “As I grew older and realized how stressful life and work can be, protecting the environment became a priority.”
Some of the ways in which Vásquez spends her time outdoors are by trail running and hiking. One of her ultimate goals is to complete a thru-hike of a long-distance trail, such as the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail. Currently, Vásquez has hiked portions of Machu Picchu, the Yucatan, and the Dominican Republic.
After graduating from Georgia State University with bachelor’s degrees in both history and urban planning, Vásquez spent a year in Baltimore serving in AmeriCorps. While in Baltimore, she utilized her urban planning degree by helping to coordinate the revitalization of neighborhoods and blighted lots. Vásquez’s position required that she consider the implications of non-point source pollution that contributed to water run-off, and the ways in which it would affect the community; she also assisted in the implementation of urban gardens. Upon relocating to Washington D.C., Vásquez worked with Section 8 housing and helping displaced families find homes.
Throughout her humanitarian endeavors, Vásquez knew she eventually wanted to pursue a law degree. She later returned to her alma mater in Georgia, where she worked at the health law clinic, primarily advising attorneys on poverty law, before deciding to attend law school at the University Of Georgia.
Now 28 years old and in her final year of law school, Vásquez hopes to focus on environmental law in the future. Her internship at SRR will help her pursue this goal, as she will be assisting the Office of General Counsel and supporting SRR attorneys in areas ranging from procurement and employment benefits to environmental regulation and compliance.
Vásquez said her role at SRR will allow her to aid in the protection of nature and local wildlife as she will be working to ensure tanks containing legacy waste are properly closed and meet National Environmental Policy Act regulations.
“I am most concerned with compliance regarding water regulation,” Vásquez said. “To me, water equates to life. While my work in Baltimore and D.C. may not be clearly related to my work at SRR, they are all very similar to one another in that the local community and the surrounding environment are of the utmost concern.”
SRR is the liquid waste contactor at SRS for the U.S. Department of Energy. SRR is composed of a team of companies led by AECOM with partners Bechtel National, CH2M and BWX Technologies. Critical subcontractors for the contract are AREVA, EnergySolutions and URS Professional Solutions.