Date: September 12, 2019
Today we’d like to introduce you to Shannon Evanchec.
So, before we jump into specific questions about what you do, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
TruePani started in 2015 in a water quality lab at Georgia Tech. Our mission is to reduce exposure to environmental toxins through a team of engineers and pediatricians. In the water arena, we’ve completed international and domestic projects ranging from piloting technology to kill microbes in stored drinking water supplies, to training water and sanitation nonprofits on measuring the impact of their water systems, to providing testing and remediation services and customized lead prevention plans for school districts and childcare facilities.
Outside of water, we’ve worked as a subcontractor on multi-million dollar federally funded projects providing modeling and simulation analysis for transit agencies deploying electric buses in California, Texas, Connecticut, and Missouri. We hold DBE certifications in Georgia, Maine, and Texas. A core pillar of TruePani is providing education and advocacy around contaminants in drinking water, with a particular focus on lead in drinking water. We’ve engaged with key community partners including local Atlanta nonprofits and have hosted multiple awareness events with an upcoming documentary investigating the Flint water crisis through a local lens.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The past three years have not been a smooth road. In fact, every day there is some sort of struggle. Some are larger and longer-lasting than other, but some of the best advice that one of my mentors, Jeff Lane, gave is: “don’t get too high with the highs, and don’t get to low with the lows.” I’ve really taken that to heart and think about it during really great times and really rough times.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the TruePani story. Tell us more about it.
TruePani focuses on reducing environmental toxins. This takes a few forms. One of our main focus is reducing lead in drinking water. Lead in drinking water is a complex topic and there’s a lot of misinformation about lead in the United States. For example, most people think of Flint, Michigan when they read the word “lead,” but lead in drinking water has been found in every state across the county. Here in Atlanta, public school districts have found lead levels that rival those detected in Flint – as high as 511ppb, when the EPA action level is 15 ppb. In reality, pediatricians and public health officials have shared that no level of lead in drinking water is safe.
We specialize in working with public and private schools to provide education and detect and remediate sources of lead in drinking water. We are also known for providing education and advocacy around lead and other contaminants in drinking water and the environment. We’ve done speaking events, panel discussions, and interactive events at school districts educating the next generation. Simple things like sharing that lead in drinking water is tasteless, odorless, and colorless, can be helpful – oftentimes discolored water is shown on the news when reporters share information on lead and so people believe that only discolored water is harmful. Our goal is to empower consumers to know what they’re drinking and know what they can do to drink safer water and live a healthier life. Something unique that we’ve done as an organization is named a pediatrician to the director of our advisory board. Both myself and my co-founder come from civil and environmental engineering backgrounds, and so by bringing in health professionals we can combine our skill sets and experiences to make a larger impact. We’ve set ourselves apart from a traditional environmental consulting firm by having education and advocacy be a core pillar of our mission, staying deeply rooted in our community, and independently vetting and testing water solutions, like filtration devices.
Outside of drinking water, we’ve conducted modeling and simulation of zero-emission battery-electric buses for transit agencies replacing their diesel fleet. By showing how the buses will perform before they’re deployed and the economic impact of using electricity instead of diesel as a fuel source (which is usually a cost-saving!) these agencies are more prepared for deploying the new vehicles and have the knowledge and tools to engage with the community that will be riding the buses. We’re passionate about these projects because they are an example of how environmental sustainability can be economically advantageous.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Being in the right place at the right time, and working with the right people has definitely impacted the evolution of TruePani. I think that I believe more in good luck than bad luck – usually, when something goes wrong I can trace it back to a decision that I made and find a way to overcome it.
I’ve had a great support system – my parents encouraged me to consider Georgia Tech when it wasn’t really on my radar. The decision to attend Georgia Tech was life-changing – I met friends that connected me to corporate, nonprofit, and research positions, and the people I met working those jobs have been great assets that I’ve leaned on as TruePani has progressed. During my time working in a research group, I met my co-founder of TruePani, Sam. The way that the timing has worked out for professional and personal relationships definitely makes me feel like I’ve been very lucky.