Meeta Pannu, WA State Department of Ecology
Young Meeta wanted to work in the airline business and travel the world. She had dreams of ensuring the safety and comfort of passengers with her gracious attitude and winning smile as a flight attendant. Eventually, this dream changed and Meeta knew her destiny was to become a doctor, but not just any doctor. Fate would have it in 2008 when her Masters advisor asked the magic question that cemented her future, “do you know what biosolids are?” From that point on there was no looking back, Meeta earned her doctorate in soil science doing her dissertation work with biosolids.
Meet Meeta Pannu, PhD, the Southwest Regional Biosolids Coordinator and Statewide Emerging Contaminant Specialist with the Washington State Department of Ecology. Out of the Southwest Regional Office in Lacey, she works with permitees to obtain compliance of the state biosolids rule and general permit. She also educates the public about biosolids and develops long-term, productive partnerships with stakeholders. Meeta enjoys working with her colleagues at the Department of Ecology and the everyday challenges working in this field brings.
"I learn every day. Ecology is such a diverse institution from programs like solid waste to hazardous waste to toxic clean ups to air quality and water quality programs.”
Read more about Meeta and how she got her start in biosolids. Responses have been edited for clarity and abridged for length.
What did you do before working for the Department of Ecology?
Before starting work at Ecology, I worked as a Researcher with the University of Florida and the University of Washington on biosolids research.
What interesting biosolids projects/programs have you worked on lately, and for whom?
During my graduate years at the University of Florida, I worked on fate, transport and risk assessment of emerging chemicals present in biosolids applied soils. I am looking forward to start working on the emerging topic of PFAS in biosolids.
What’s you dream job (in or out of the biosolids world)?
My passion is to work in the field of emerging contaminants and I just entered that field at the Department of Ecology, so I am here to stay!
What makes you inspired to keep working the biosolids world? Why does this matter to you?
I dislike the misinformation about biosolids on the internet. I wish I had more tools to defend the beneficial use of biosolids. In order to keep myself updated with current biosolids research, I follow the work done by W-3170 scientists.
What do you envision for the future of biosolids management?
I am highly impressed by some biosolids programs in southwest Washington. I believe that the success of a beneficial use program is measured by the amount of trust it has from the public. Trust goes a long way.
What’s your best BioFest memory?
I attended my first one in 2012 as a student and in 2018 as a regulator. I thoroughly enjoyed all the speakers and the quality of presentations were great. It is also a good place for networking and meeting stakeholders. Meeta will be presenting on PFAS regulations development at BioFest 2019 in Blaine, WA on September 10.
What’s something most biosolids folks wouldn’t know about you?
I am originally from India but have lived in the states for about 15 years. I love to cook and enjoy spending time outdoors with my husband and two boys. I still don’t know how to swim but want to learn that skill in the future.
Who did you learn the most from over your career?
I definitely learned a lot from my Graduate advisor Dr. George O’Connor. Working with him definitely shaped my future career. I was also fortunate to work with Dr. Sally Brown and learned a lot from her.
And last but not least, thank you to all the biosolids experts that have inspired Meeta and the rest of us!