By Lisa Balschunat
“I always liked playing in the dirt,” said Mary Passaretti, geologist and co-owner of Aztech Environmental Technologies, when talking about the growth and challenges her company has faced over the years.
“If it’s wet, it’s mud; if it’s dry it’s dirt. Right? according her to her business partner, Fil Fina III, PE. By no means, is it that simple when it comes to remediation solutions, environmental consulting and comprehensive drilling services, but Aztech Environmental has a solid business record, coupled with a high-tech team, to simplify challenging environmental problems for its current and future clients.
In 1991, Passaretti formed Passaretti Geological & Environmental Consultants Inc. in the basement of her mother’s home in Saratoga Springs.
“Ninety-eight percent of my work was prepping the ground for Stewart’s Shops,” she said. Prior to that, she worked in the oil industry in Tulsa, Okla. Right out of undergraduate school, she embarked on a 10-year career in the research division of Amoco and Cities Service (Citgo). As a diver for Citgo, she collected research data in the Bahamas, Belize and, less glamorously, offshore New Jersey. The data from the Bahamas formed the basis of her master’s thesis earning her a graduate degree at TU.
As Passaretti Geological grew, the company partnered with F.L. Fina PE PC.
“We found that the two companies complimented each other and made good partners,” she said. “Fil has a brilliant engineering mind, and I have the geological piece.”
In 1995, the duo wanted to bid jointly on a state Department of Environmental Conservation contract, "but it wasn't an option for two individual companies, so we entered into a joint entity initially as a dba appropriately named Passaretti & Fina. The dba was subsequently (1997) incorporated as Aztech Technologies Inc. and later dba Aztech Environmental Technologies," she said.
The company secured and has maintained a five-year revolving contract with DEC since 1995. Aztech became a certified Women Business Enterprise (WBE) in 2004, and is one of the largest women-owned businesses in the region.
"It has been our goal from the start to create a firm focused on providing cost effective solutions to our client's often complex environmental problems, from small investigations and compliance projects to restoring a site to its natural state," Passaretti said.
Large engineering firms who have clients such as GE and National Grid have very competent remedial design engineers, but often lack the 'boots on the ground' experience or resources when it comes to implementing their designs. That's where we come in."
Aztech currently employs 35, including an experienced team of engineers, geologists, scientists, drillers, hydrogeologists and technical field professionals. The company is presently seeking a senior environmental driller, a sonic rig driller and a client relationship manager to join its highly skilled team. Under Passaretti and Fina's leadership, Aztech has been recognized as one of the top ten environmental firms in the Capital District. The company does business throughout New York state and into New England.
Passaretti said, "Our approach to every project is to balances costs, environmental risks and our client's needs," she said. "Whether working on a corner gas station or a large 300-plus petroleum portfolio, our goal remains the same: to provide cost effective solutions to complex environmental problems."
Aztech specializes in all environmental drilling including sonic and multi-channel well installation. They routinely perform soil and groundwater monitoring, in-situ chemical oxidation, Phase 1 and II environmental site assessments, groundwater collection and treatment systems (from the design, to manufacturing to installing), soil vapor testing and subsequent design and installation of sub-slab depressurization mitigation systems to excavation of impacted soil whether it be petroleum from an abandoned gas station or heavy metals at a former manufacturing facility.
"We take contaminants out of the ground, not only petroleum, but PCBs, chlorinated solvents and more," Passaretti said.
Aztech does not remediate asbestos, mold, septic or nuclear waste, but rather has partners for that work.
Aztech has an affiliate company in the geothermal business, Aztech Geothermal. Located on McCrea Hill Road in Ballston Spa, the company presently occupies 16,000 square feet of its 24,000-square-foot space, housing five drill rigs and 35 employees, with room for equipment demonstrations, classes and growth.
Most recently, the company has been involved in the installation of residential and commercial filters to remove perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in the drinking water in Hoosick Falls. Aztech is also working on extensive projects in Syracuse, Long Island, Mid Hudson Valley, Plattsburgh, western Massachusetts and regions of Connecticut..
"One of the challenges over the years in this business is quoting a job without knowing what's really happening under ground," she said. "Until we get down there, we don't know exactly what we will find," Passaretti said. "We could be asked to quote a job to remove three tanks. Then once in the ground, we find five, and more soil that requires attention."
Even with 35 years of underground experience in both the oil and environmental business, Passaretti said that providing estimates still remains a business challenge.
"Sometimes we take a beating on our pricing because we are providing an estimate for something that is under the ground that we cannot see!" she said.
Most recently, Aztech purchased a high-tech sonic rig used for drilling deep wells, generally 150 to 300 feet, and is planning an on-site demonstration in Latham in early September that will include a Professional Development Hour (PDH) training class, an extensive demonstration and a picnic.
"We will continue to make a living in this business with the goals of assisting our clients with their environmental needs, protecting soil and groundwater in the process and keeping our team of 35 employed," she said. "We are in the business of 'making the world a better place' and the Aztech leadership plans to do so for years to come.
For more information, visit www.aztechenv.com or call 885-5383.