SUNY-ESF student tackles wastewater treatment plan in Iceland during study abroad

Courtesy of Maria Scicchitano

Maria Scicchitano, a SUNY-ESF student, studied abroad in Iceland.

Since her freshman year, Maria Scicchitano had wanted to study abroad in Iceland, but it didn’t become a reality until she received the Fink Career Fellowship.

Scicchitano, now a senior environmental resources engineering major at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, attended a study abroad fair as a freshman, just as she decided to pursue a minor in renewable energy. There she found out about a program through the School for International Training that focused on renewable energy in Iceland.

“The program was perfect for everything I’ve ever wanted, which was to study abroad in Iceland and then to study about renewable energy,” Scicchitano said.

She was able to go to Iceland this past summer after receiving SUNY-ESF’s Fink Career Fellowship, a grant to fund student experiences that help enhance marketability, Scicchitano said. The grant took $5,000 off of her program tuition, making it possible to study abroad.

While abroad, Scicchitano took two classes and completed a capstone research paper.

“It wasn’t supposed to be just look things up on the internet and write a paper on it but you were somehow supposed to actually generate data,” Scicchitano said.

Over the course of the summer, she worked with the engineer from the small town where she was staying to help develop a wastewater treatment plan because the town did not previously have one.

“I was completely shocked when I found that out,” she said. “I had just taken a wastewater treatment class at ESF the previous semester and I couldn’t believe they were just dumping everything in the ocean.”

With the help of the town engineer, Scicchitano got data about everything that was going into the ocean.

Since she had to tie it to renewable energy, she looked at a basic feasibility study for implementing a biodigester, a way to treat wastewater while getting energy back.

“It was really cool because I got to do both the environmental resource engineering side, which is more like environmental relations and water quality, and then tie it to renewable energy,” Scicchitano said.

In the end, her recommendation was to start installing water meters to let people know how much wastewater they were generating, adding that most people had no idea how much they were generating.

One of the things she noticed while in Iceland was the relationship the people had with the environment. While they were very protective of nature, Scicchitano said, they also didn’t care that there was no wastewater treatment system in place. She said people were wasteful because energy in the country is so cheap, since it is renewable.

“It’s a strange parallel between very hardcore environmentalists and wasteful household practices,” she said.


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