Kacey Garber wanted to be a storm chaser when she grew up, trained to detect and alert others of brewing severe weather. But then she found geology and went on to earn graduate and postgraduate degrees in this discipline, which brought the summa cum laude scholar to SCS Engineers. Her charge is groundwater protection, an area where she aspires to grow her expertise further.
The young professional (YP) is already moving quickly along that trajectory, beginning by supporting landfills and utilities and now applying her strong skill set in a highly specialized, fast-evolving arena – deep-well injection.
A common thread binds Garber’s main interests – groundwater protection, geology, and meteorology/trained weather spotter, which she still does in her spare time.
“What draws me to these niches is the thrill of being part of the scientific community collecting and interpreting compelling data to figure out solutions. And not just any solutions but those with the promise of helping protect people and the environment. That’s where I want to have an impact,” she says.
She’s heard of climate change almost her whole life and has thought for almost as long that someday she would play some problem-solving role to help mitigate its effects.
Garber splits her time at SCS between several areas. She monitors and tests groundwater for landfills, closely following both active and closed sites, and helping landfills prepare for post-closure. She supports electric utilities with groundwater issues potentially related to their closed coal ash ponds and disposal sites. And now, she is leading groundwater protection tasks for class VI deep-well injection projects as part of a dedicated team that permits and builds these wells.
The cutting-edge, EPA-regulated technology injects and stores carbon dioxide underground safely, preventing this potent greenhouse gas from releasing into the atmosphere.
Garber’s on-the-job experience in the field is paramount to her new, added role. Her studies in geology focused on sedimentary basins are also proving important.
“Sedimentary basins [where large bodies of rock occur] are ideal spots for carbon sequestration. But first, you must understand the geologic characteristics of the basin and each rock formation and determine exactly which locations within the basin are best for injecting and storing carbon dioxide. That’s a big part of what I do to ensure efficiency and safety,” she says.
In her eyes, Garber lives and works in the best of two worlds in that she can concentrate on different but related interests.
“Joining our deep-well injection team brings me back to my roots in traditional geology. But it also enables me to stay on the groundwater monitoring track, which is meaningful as I aim to position myself as a national expert who can do this important work. Ensuring water quality is critical to protecting the environment and communities, as a large part of our country relies on groundwater for its water supply.”
As she grows her reach into deep-well injection, she grows her relationships too. The multidisciplinary team—all new colleagues to her a year ago are her newest work family addition.
“It’s humbling to partner with so many incredibly smart people, each with their respective areas of expertise. We’ve come to trust each other’s judgment as we solve issues together. And as it turns out, we have a lot in common, especially our love of nature—the joy we find in being outdoors, camping, and hiking.”
Getting a foot in the door of a nationwide environmental firm has been good. Especially one that welcomes YPs and is vested in their career development, something she found uncommon among companies with as great a geographical reach and breadth of expertise.
She seized the opportunity.
“I saw it as a way to gain visibility early in my career. And to become well-rounded in my discipline. We perform groundwater monitoring for many project types, and there are parallels in how it’s done in each; I can support and learn from all of them.”
At the same time, she explores other specialized areas.
“There are designated experts here at SCS in many professions and industries dedicated to caring for the environment. They are great resources to learn from.”
Where she would land one day was unknown for a while. Garber thought she’d become a professor or researcher at one time. But that changed when she interned with the United States Geological Survey, venturing beyond the classroom and lab to assess land use impacts on water quality and floodplains.
“I liked solving problems out in the field and decided pretty quickly that’s where I wanted to be,” she says.
The desire to teach is still in her, though. She travels state to state, presenting to regulators, technology experts, and other seasoned professionals and decision-makers on groundwater modeling, monitoring, and testing.
She also reaches out to ambitious geology students, visiting them on campus to tell them about deep-well injection and carbon sequestration and that the company she works for does these projects around the country. Their curriculum rarely includes an introduction to this specialized niche.
Remembering herself as one of them, Garber says, “I didn’t know of this work in college. I first learned as a newcomer to SCS.
It intrigued me, and I was excited to hear that the deep-well injection group needed a team member with a strong monitoring background. Later I thought, how cool it would be for students to discover this potential career path early.”
How else does she fill her days? Besides watching for and reporting developing storms to weather bureaus– she called in a funnel cloud once out in the field—she plays guitar in a local band.
Sometimes she goes solo and has played and sung at a nearby rehabilitation center and nursing home.
“I love playing music. It makes me happy. But what really feels good is to play for folks, especially those who may be more limited in what they can do and where they can go. For them, listening to music and dancing seems to be the highlight of their day. It makes me happy to see them happy.”
Ensuring a safe, healthy environment and a better world for everyone is about a commitment to people, community, and hard work. Thank you, Kacey Garber, for your dedication to keeping our groundwater safe, for helping execute innovative solutions to advance sustainability, and for bringing a lift to others along the way.
You, can make a difference in your life, your work, and your community!
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We’ve all heard that proverb before, and it’s true – it’s generally easier to stop something from happening than to repair the damage after it has happened.
This is almost always the case when it comes to environmental incidents – it is cheaper to prevent the incident from occurring than paying for the cleanup and impacts the incident caused. Many of SCS’s service areas are specifically focused on prevention and optimization – doing the job in ways that are better, safer, and more protective of human health and the environment.
Environmental insurance is a product that most SCS clients likely have in place in some form to protect their facilities, employees, and neighbors from the harmful impacts of incidents that can introduce contamination into the air, soil, groundwater, or surface water. The types of coverage provided by environmental insurance policies vary in both extent and cost, and many factors, one of which being risk, drive those costs. When an insurance company is underwriting coverage for a new or existing client, the risk associated with that coverage is carefully evaluated. What the client (insured) does, how they do it, their safety record, their history of previous environmental issues, and other factors are all taken into consideration when writing an environmental insurance policy and the associated premium and deductible are determined.
To reduce the up-front costs (the premium) associated with carrying the necessary and appropriate amount of environmental insurance, the insured can do several things. One is to increase their deductible, but in the event of an incident, that could end up costing the insured more on the back end (i.e., costs expended to investigate and remediate an incident). Insureds, their brokers, and the insurers will work closely to balance premium costs and deductibles so that the costs associated with addressing an incident are not detrimental.
An insured shouldn’t reduce the type and amount of coverage – that could put them in a bad financial (and legal!) position. A more prudent choice, one that has many potential positive aspects and makes sound business sense, is reducing risk and therefore the costs associated with an environmental insurance policy that is based on coverage and risk.
SCS Engineers develops proprietary remote monitoring and control software for landfills, manufacturing, and industrial facilities called SCS RMC®. The software provides remote real-time viewing, analysis, and control of equipment and systems critical to safe operations and production. A network of sensors and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) applications enable operations teams to be alerted immediately (via cell phones, computers, tablets) of any operational issues that could potentially result in an environmental incident.
The application reduces reaction time, labor costs, and potential associated impacts. In this case, SCS RMC® puts the client’s decision-making in front of a problem rather than reacting to potential aftermaths, proactively reducing the potential environmental risks of their operations.
SCS’s service areas, including those listed here, are particularly focused on providing our clients with assistance in designing, building, and maintaining sustainable solutions, reducing risk, and helping to foresee and adapt to environmental, social, and regulatory changes:
SCS’s professionals are available to assist our clients in their discussions with brokers and insurers regarding how our environmental services and technologies can potentially reduce risks associated with their operations. We do this by providing creative and cost-effective solutions and guidance that can prevent environmental incidents from occurring and reducing the nature and extent of associated impacts.
We can help you select and implement the “ounce of prevention” so that you won’t have to face the “pound of cure.” This will proactively reduce operational risks, which can, in turn, help facilitate the positive brokering of more favorable environmental insurance coverage, premiums, and deductibles.
About the Author: Michael Schmidt is an accomplished leader with nearly 30 years of progressively-responsible experience in the environmental consulting and environmental insurance industries, with specific experience focusing on the evaluation of environmental risks and liabilities associated with insurance claims and underwriting, site investigation and remediation, due diligence, and project management.
According to a recent article in APNews, U.S. Oil loaded its first shipment of 100,000 barrels of ethanol in April to ship out of the Port of Milwaukee. The distributor is a subsidiary of U.S. Venture, which distributes oil, ethanol, lubricants, tires and auto parts. The company has been shipping ethanol from the port of Green Bay for six years without incident.
The company filed an environmental response plan with the U.S. Coast Guard to help allay feels of pollution. The plan is comprehensive including controlling a potential spill, guarding water intake pipes and protecting wildlife in near-shore areas. “They have a very robust response plan,” said Lieutenant Commander Bryan Swintek of the U.S. Coast Guard in Milwaukee. “Clearly, they want to make sure they are operating in a safe manner.”
The safe transportation of ethanol helps support Wisconsin’s agricultural community, supports renewable fuels which play a major role in the new energy economy, and is done in a socially responsible, environmentally friendly way.
SCS Engineers provided the response plan mentioned in the article, which is not regulatory driven, but rather a proactive action driven by U.S. Oil. This type of response plan is called a Tactical Response Plan and provides an extra layer of spill preparedness. It’s a site-specific, emergency response and cleanup strategy that allows facilities to take action faster and quickly minimize the spread of a spill – and can help protect a facility’s reputation.