Lisa Berta, '91
October 10, 2012 by Lisa McMahon, M.A.'09
Rattlesnakes, hazardous and radioactive waste, scheduling disposal deliveries, and ensuring compliance with Environmental Protection Agency regulations are all in a day's work for Lisa (Schreiner) Berta, '91. As a project manager at Waste Control Specialists, she oversees treatment, storage and disposal services at the organization's facility in Andrews, Texas, a rural location on the arid high plains “full of oil pumps, mesquite and critters with teeth.”
Although Lisa had an interest in science and hazardous materials emergency response (inspired by her father, who was a volunteer fireman), she did not know that she could establish a profession in that field. She enrolled as a biochemistry major at Niagara and participated in the university's ROTC program, but at the time of her graduation in 1991 she was still uncertain about what occupation she would pursue.
It was her connection to Niagara that ultimately led her to her career. After completing the Army's Basic Officer Course, she contacted Dr. Mary Schreiner, her former chemistry professor, to inquire about job leads. Lisa says that Dr. Schreiner “pulled a ratty Post-it note out of her pen drawer that had a name and phone number, and told me ”˜He was looking for a new chemist about a year ago.'” When Lisa called the number, Niagara alumnus David Scalise, '83, answered the phone. She was interviewed within the week (and asked questions about cleaning dead fish and finding a thyroid on a deceased deer) and began a career with URS Corp. that lasted more than 17 years. After several years of frequent travel and long-term assignment in West Texas supporting WCS, Lisa accepted a position with WCS in August 2009.
“One hundred percent of my career is due to Niagara,” Lisa says.
Lisa's responsibilities have varied from actual hands-on Superfund and hazardous waste site cleanup, to arranging shipments of waste to properly licensed and permitted facilities, to monitoring such facilities to ensure the safe and efficient operation of all remediation efforts. She says that the job aligns with her personal philosophy as an environmentalist.
“I'm part of fixing up a neglected part of our environment and making it safe,” she says. “I live in the towns where I work, and I wouldn't do that if I found it unsafe. Regulated waste disposal is much better than the alternatives of hazardous waste accumulating in warehouses or improperly disposed.”