Ask the Expert – Nizette Consolazio

Nizette is a biochemical engineer with nearly a decade of consulting and research experience. Her primary areas of focus include soil and groundwater contamination investigation, remedial design, wastewater treatment system design, environmental bench scale studies, and emerging contaminants.

What do you find most rewarding about the work that you do?  

I think of myself as a problem solver, and as an engineer working in consulting, I get many opportunities to practice those skills. Most of my time is spent working on challenging technical problems and I really enjoy the process of breaking down complex issues into smaller, manageable components and applying scientific principles to analyze the situation and identify a workable solution. What “problem solving” looks like changes every day. Sometimes it means paying close attention to the finer details of a project. Other times it means stepping back to think outside the box to come up with a more creative idea. And still other times, solving the problem means pulling together a team of experts for input (and at EHS Support there are many!). I enjoy the daily challenge of trying to identify the best approach for our clients’ budget, schedule, and regulatory needs. 

What are you currently working on?  

Most of the projects I work on focus on enhanced bioremediation where we capitalize on naturally-occurring bacteria to help clean up soil and groundwater contaminated with chlorinated solvents such as trichloroethylene (TCE). However, bioremediation can be a very slow process, so my job is to help engineer ways to provide the extra “oomph” needed for this to occur within remediation-relevant timeframes. This can mean injecting something for the bacteria to eat (electron donor), to breathe (an electron acceptor) or additional bacteria to help get the job done. Of course, no two sites are the same, so much of the work is focusing on finding an enhanced bioremediation solution that is specific to the geological and regulatory challenges. As a researcher, I love keeping up with the latest innovations in the field and as we continue to learn more, I’m confident that we will find ways to adapt this technology to more numerous and difficult sites.  

How can our clients benefit from this service/particular innovation?

Enhanced bioremediation is more cost-effective and more environmentally friendly than many other remediation technologies. It leverages naturally-occurring processes instead of expensive equipment, extensive infrastructure, or strong chemicals. It also consumes significantly less energy than other remedial alternatives, making it a greener choice than many other options. Once established, microbial populations continue to work in the long-run without significant ongoing expenses and less impact to the environment. 

When you were 10 years old, what did you aspire to do for a career? 

At 10, I really wanted to become a professional dancer! But, ever practical, I figured that I needed a backup plan and was split on studying to become a doctor or a teacher. Somewhere along the way, I discovered engineering and haven’t looked back. But I like to think that my career still embraces all those things the younger me wanted to do. I spend most of my time teaching myself or clients about environmental issues, and the ultimate goal of our work is to protect human health and the environment. Over the years I have found ways to participate in or financially support the arts. Pittsburgh (my adopted city) has a surprisingly vibrant cultural scene, and I’ve had the opportunity to see popular Broadway musicals, nationally-acclaimed dance companies, and even take community classes at the amazing studios like the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School.

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