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Helping communities and businesses access compliance, technical and financial assistance for their environmental needs.

Meet the DEFA Staff

Peter Dittrich joined DEFA this spring in the environmental engineering unit. Peter earned a Bachelor of Science in environmental engineering from The Ohio State University with a minor in environmental sciences.

How long have you worked for Ohio EPA?
I was a college intern in DSW at CDO in the summer of 2019 and excited to come back as a full-time employee for DEFA in March 2021.

What excites you the most about the work that you do or your field of study?
I have always been drawn to working with water, so getting to work on stormwater, wastewater, green infrastructure, wetland, and stream projects is a dream come true.

Favorite memory or accomplishment with the agency or related to your field?
My most cherished accomplishment to date is getting my research paper published after completing field work and editing it for two years. The field work was conducted when I was an intern at The Wilds, and I was studying whether or not series of beaver ponds had any effect on acid mine drainage. It was published in 2020 in the Journal of the American Society of Mining and Reclamation.

What are your favorite things to do outside of work?
Outside of work, I enjoy trying out new recipes in the kitchen as well as going to new restaurants. I also like to go on hikes and visit the metro parks within Columbus. I try to be outside as much as possible when the weather is nice. Biking to work was such a great experience when I was an intern at the Ohio EPA, and I plan to continue that when we return to the office.

Who inspires you?
This might sound like a cliché, but nature itself inspired me to choose this career path. Ever since I was a kid, I was outside whenever I wasn’t in school, and it just gave me such an appreciation of our natural surroundings.


Tom Harcarik is an environmental planner in the WRRSP program. Tom received a Bachelor of Science in conservation from Kent State University with a specialization in aquatic ecology and has completed graduate level courses at The Ohio State University in the schools of Public Policy and Natural Resources.

How long have you worked for Ohio EPA?
I’ve worked for Ohio EPA for 36 years. I started out as a summer intern picking bugs off rocks then moved into permitting and enforcement positions before landing in DEFA. While enforcement was not the ultimate path I wanted, those jobs taught me a lot about the inner workings of an administrative agency and how decision-making works at different levels of management from the intern to the governor and everything in-between.

What excites you the most about the work that you do or your field of study?
I knew since I was a child that the environment was my passion. That never changed, but I was never sure how it would manifest itself. And now I get to work in the field of stream and wetland protection and restoration. Even now, I still get a thrill from finding salamanders in a stream or wetland and knowing that I’ve done something to make the environment better.

Favorite memory or accomplishment with the agency or related to your field?
There really are too many to mention. I remember as a summer intern working in the Ohio EPA booth my first Ohio State Fair and everyone telling me how much fun it would be. On a site visit, I remember the mink that walked up to me sniffed my feet then casually ambled off. I’ll never forget when Steve Malone I and rode a helicopter across the state examining the path of a proposed large pipeline. And I learned I get nauseous in helicopters! But most recently it has been the opportunity to speak to national audiences of state, local, federal, and tribal representatives about the work DEFA performs and having states look to emulate our programs.

What are your favorite things to do outside of work?
Spending time in the woods hiking, backpacking, kayaking, or just being. The woods are my cathedral where I find peace. I’ve been on many wonderful adventures back packing, kayak-camping, and a multi-day back country ski trip in Michigan’s Pictured Rocks National Shoreline. Many more adventures are being planned.

Who inspires you?
My favorite book is Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac. The book inspired me in so many ways and cemented my love and commitment to the environment and environmental causes. Most of my reading these days is about the French and Indian and Revolutionary wars.