For Arun Wahi, Senior Hydrogeologist with INTERA Inc., a leading international geosciences and engineering consulting firm, inspiration to pursue a career in the environmental industry came early, and from someone he could trust – his father. He begins, “My father founded a company that performs environmental risk assessments for the nuclear waste sector, so I explored career options, and found I always had environmental issues on my mind. I first learned about hydrology while interning at Sandia National Laboratories, and by the time I was a couple months into graduate school I was fully in love with the subject.” He is also quick to point out his good fortune to have mentors along the way. “When I was young, a lot of scientists and engineers were generous with their time, showing me various aspects of their work, which further sparked my interest in the geosciences.” Wahi joined INTERA in 2014, after spending nine years as a Staff Scientist and Project Scientist with a water resources and environmental consulting firm. His university studies include a MS in Hydrology from the University of Arizona and a BS in Chemical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, where he minored in Environmental Engineering.
In his current role with INTERA, Wahi supports all aspects of environmental investigations, monitoring, and remediation for private and public sector clients. He also specializes in contaminant fate and transport analyses of organic and inorganic contaminants and radionuclides, including numerical models of vadose zone and groundwater flow and transport. He shares, “I enjoy the challenges associated with mathematics and learning new chemistry of emerging contaminants or forensic techniques, but the most rewarding part of my job is influencing concrete actions that protect human health and the environment.”
Residing in New Mexico, where he works out of the INTERA Albuquerque office, Wahi appreciates the challenging and diverse range of projects in his work. He continues, “INTERA delivers geoscience and engineering solutions for some of the most complex environmental challenges in the world. Across industries and vast geographies, our teams are entrusted with finding ways to manage risk, to use water resources more sustainably, to protect coastal resources and infrastructure, and to safely isolate radioactive and other hazardous wastes.” He also admires the company’s consistent approach toward making a positive impact on the environment. “In every engagement, on every project site, in every partnership, and with every decision we make, INTERA seeks to improve the natural and built environments around us, and to enrich the communities that have entrusted us.” When asked about the most demanding part of his job, he points to the challenges of ascertaining so many different, yet related aspects in his work. He shares, “The most demanding part is my work’s interdisciplinary nature. It takes an ability to assimilate a wide range of information and work with many types of people to understand the unique problems and challenges of each site, and recognize the critical measures to take.”
When it comes to working with REGENESIS®, he appreciates the strong collaboration they provide, and the company’s deep reservoir of experience. He shares, “With REGENESIS, I am able to draw on both their project experience and my own experience to find the right design for each project. When we recently used fracture-enhanced wells to deliver REGENESIS products to a difficult treatment zone, their experience with the technique and with the other contractors involved made INTERA and our client more comfortable in selecting that design.” With regard to specific REGENESIS products, he indicates that INTERA has used 3-D® Microemulsion, S-MicroZVI™, and CRS® recently at a chlorinated solvent site that had previously had some success treating PCE by injecting emulsified vegetable oil to stimulate the native bacteria. He explains, “We wanted to achieve a larger radius of influence using 3-D Microemulsion and CRS. One area had significant problems with fine-grained sediments preventing complete treatment by EVO and causing back-diffusion, so we installed fracture-enhanced wells to inject 3-D Microemulsion and S-MicroZVI. Biodegradation was generating vinyl chloride, so we selected amendments that promote a combination of anaerobic biodegradation and abiotic degradation pathways to ensure that both parent and daughter contaminants are controlled. Based on INTERA’s data on the aquifer hydraulics, REGENESIS recommended CRS for existing wells in other areas. Our initial results have been encouraging, and we are now working with REGENESIS to scale up the treatment.”
When not working, Wahi enjoys hiking on the myriad of trails in New Mexico, playing the trombone, and reading. He feels reading a non-work related book before retiring in the evening provides an opportunity to recalibrate for the next day. “I like to read a few pages of something unrelated to work right before going to sleep, partly as a way to refocus for the next day, and also to enjoy the unexpected.” To stretch his creativity, he adapts various types of music to his trombone. He shares, “I play in a group where we take just about anything in four or five parts in public domain, such as oldies, ragtime, klezmer, baroque – whatever we like – and arrange it for trombones. We have a fun arrangement of The Beatles’ “When I’m Sixty-Four” that we like to trot out, when it’s no longer hypothetical!” And to stay current with industry trends in his work, he frequently takes short courses, attends webinars, and reads trade-related periodicals to stay abreast of new technologies and emerging contaminants. When asked how he’s seen the industry change over the years, he feels the industry’s knowledge base has expanded significantly. “As the industry has matured, the body of knowledge and experience has increased enormously. Our clients are as motivated as ever, and our clients and regulators are asking more sophisticated questions. If we don’t innovate, then someone else will, so we always need to be improving and show up and be prepared to perform.” And how would he encourage others to join in his field of study? He concludes, “For those even mildly interested, take time to listen to those who offer to help. I remember all the ways that teachers and colleagues encouraged me, so when I hear about interested people who are thinking about schools and careers in my field, I make time to answer their questions.”
REGENESIS is proud to have Arun Wahi, Senior Hydrogeologist with INTERA Inc., as a valued client and partner in environmental remediation, and appreciates his creative approach and dedication in providing successful remediation outcomes for REGENESIS and its clients.