Mr Clark has over twenty years of diverse experience in the environmental industry. His experience includes all sectors of the environmental industry from government to commercial, and from treatment operations to site operations consulting.
Like many of us, I fell into the hazardous materials management field by both desire and accident. In the 1970s, I was working at a international chemical company as a chemical reactor operator and found myself in the position of "waste coordinator" by default (i.e., no one else wanted to do it!) I had learned early on that the proper handling and disposal of hazardous materials was critical to the safety of my fellow employees and our environment. Most people were NOT doing this!
In 1990, I retired from Active Military Service and was employed as a HAZMAT Responder at the Marion County Health Department, Indianapolis, IN. Later, that year I was employed as an Industrial Hygienist by the US Army at the USA Environmental Hygiene Agency, Edgewood, MD and at Kirk USA Health Clinic, APG, MD and at Baltimore District USA Corps of Engineers. Because of my time and experience as a HAZMAT Responder I was often called upon to respond to HAZMAT Incidents.
I got into the EHS field both from my childhood in the liberal bastion of Northern California and few life forming experiences early in my career. I was present for some significant life changing events particularly when 2 very close friends died in a confined space that I was in with them not very far away to seeing the dead fish in several ports of call around the world. I really did not set out in this direction, it was more of a draw.
I am most proud when I can effect change that does not kill a company but improves worker safety or the overall environmental impacts.
I am almost an accidental ESOH professional. My undergraduate degree is in Chemistry, and I really enjoyed my classes in instrumental analysis. With that in mind, I was considering continuing on to graduate work in Chemistry, but that changed soon before graduation.
After graduating from college with a Chemical Engineering degree, every employer I worked for assigned some or all of the environmental responsibilities for the site to me. I had been working for a manufacturer for about six months when my boss came to me and asked if I would take over the environmental duties, since I had some experience in environmental compliance. After sorting through the records of the previous environmental “expert” I realized there were a lot of outstanding issues/disagreements with the local authority having jurisdiction.
During my years studying as an undergraduate majoring in life sciences and chemistry I had always envisioned a career in biological research or continuing my education to enter the health care industry or working in a chemistry lab.
After about two years into my environmental consulting career, I became a hazardous materials management professional by accident, an almost fatal one. We were collecting samples from a coal gasification facility, and one of the samples turned out to contain a volatile organic compound that was a central nervous system toxin. We never identified the culprit, but the experience was eye-opening our corporate managers and for me.
In 1999, a co-worker introduced me to Alliance of Hazardous Materials Professionals. The national conference was held in nearby Kansas City and he asked if we could coauthor a paper. The presentation was well received and sparked interest by quite a few national and international companies looking for ways to improve internal and external notifications during emergence response. At the conference, I learned many things I could use and that have since become long-time components of Black Hills Corporation’s EMS.
So I became an environmental engineer because I was good at math & chemistry & it seemed like a “softer” engineering where I could make more of a difference. I had started a recycling program at my high school. Plus my dad was an environmental attorney so I could see that there were good career opportunities in this new field. I was the first of the graduating classes at University of Michigan to have the words “environmental” associated with my B.S.E. Previous degrees just had B.S.E. in Civil Engineering & mine had B.S.E. in “Civil & Environmental” Engineering.