For someone who loves animals and intended on being a veterinarian, Gregg Wood’s evolution to Assistant Director of Environmental, Health and Safety was not a direct route. When he learned in high school how difficult it was to get into veterinary medicine, he opted for Biology at the University of Richmond.
Times being what they were in 1970, Gregg joined the ROTC, and after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Zoology, went right into the Army. Arriving at Fort Sill, Oklahoma as a Field Artillery Officer, he was assigned to a nuclear missile unit. As an additional duty, he also served as the unit’s Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Defense Officer. In this position he was responsible for training everyone to survive and carry out their mission in a contaminated battlefield environment. While in the army, he became airborne qualified and also earned a Master’s degrees in Management and Public Administration.
Once discharged from the service, Gregg landed a position as an Industrial Hygienist at UMCP, working in their Environmental Health and Safety office with Larry Holbrook and a student named Mike Carmody, names some veteran TU employees may recognize. After Larry moved to Towson, he recruited both of his former colleagues; Gregg and Mike transferred to the EH&S department at Towson in 1989, working in what was then Administrative Services.
“I enjoy my work,” Gregg states. “As a safety professional, my goal is to ensure the safety of the campus community and to ensure the University is in compliance with all applicable EPA and Maryland Department of the Environment environmental regulations such as Hazardous Chemical, Pathological and Radioactive Wastes, Clean Air, Clean Water, Storm Water Discharge, Above and Underground Storage Tanks and Lead Paint Management, to name a few.” In 2012, he shipped almost 14,000 pounds of hazardous chemical wastes and over 5,200 pounds of pathological wastes. “Since I started in 1989, hazardous waste volumes have increased dramatically due to increased student enrollments, campus research activities and an increased awareness of hazardous waste regulations in the campus community. I’ve spent countless hours in Smith Hall, Center for Arts and other campus buildings going through labs, art studios, shops and storage areas getting rid of old hazardous materials that have been accumulated for years. You wouldn’t believe what was found – it was amazing. I even found some very old pesticides that were prohibited by the EPA from being disposed of in the United States due to its toxicity. I ended up exporting it to Finland for disposal. The paperwork was staggering,” Gregg relates.
The hazardous waste disposal process is highly regulated and there are serious penalties for improper disposal. “Every step of the hazardous waste process has to be documented – I have to be able to track each container of hazardous waste from its point of generation on campus to its ultimate off-campus disposal site. We ship hazardous wastes to over 26 different disposal sites in the United States and one in Canada. None of our hazardous waste is landfilled – everything is either recycled or treated to render it non-hazardous,” he said.
To ensure campus hazardous wastes are being properly managed, Hazardous Waste Inspectors from the Maryland Department of the Environment conduct an annual unannounced hazardous waste inspection of the campus. During the inspection, the inspectors spend a lot of time in buildings where hazardous wastes are generated to ensure accumulated wastes are properly labeled and stored. The inspectors also spend time going through all of the hazardous waste shipping records to ensure that wastes were properly classified and were sent to the proper disposal sites, for treatment or recycling. “Biennially, I am required to send a report to the EPA which lists the types and quantities of all hazardous wastes that were generated on campus” Gregg states.
A few years ago Gregg started the campus battery, fluorescent light bulb and light ballast recycling programs as a way to minimize hazardous waste volumes and has had tremendous success with these programs. Last year he recycled over 20,000 pounds of these materials. Gregg says “We have our own fluorescent light bulb crusher that reduces bulb recycling costs by over 75%.”
Shortly after arriving at Towson In 1989, Gregg and Mike Carmody started teaching American Heart Association CPR to select Facilities Management employees in accordance with OSHA regulations. Over the years the program rapidly expanded to include all University employees and continues to grow. According to Gregg, “The American Heart Association has really focused on simplifying the CPR process over the years and it’s nowhere as complex a process as it used to be.” Last year Gregg trained over 130 University employees in CPR.
He also started the campus Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) Program back in 1999 with just 7 AEDs. Today, Gregg’s AED program has grown to 51 AEDs throughout the campus. “My goal is have at least one AED in every academic and administrative building before I retire” says Gregg. AEDs save lives and recent regulatory changes no longer require AED operators be CPR qualified.
“I’d like to think I’ve made a difference in the time that I’ve been here.
I work very closely with Facilities Management on a daily basis and couldn’t have accomplished what I did without their cooperation and assistance. They are my eyes and ears on campus and let me know if they see anything that could be a potential problem.”
When asked about his personal time, reading and gardening are favorite pastimes, but his ideal time off involves “toes in the sand” at any beach. “I’ve been to many beaches from Florida to Rhode Island, and that’s where I’m happiest.” Something else that makes him happy is his daughter, a former TU student, who now works with children with special needs in Montgomery County. Helping others really does run in the family.
Like most people, Gregg has plans for retirement from TU. Travel is the primary focus, and beaches will, of course, play a major part. “After I win the lottery, I’d love to go to Hawaii and Tahiti, Australia and New Zealand.” After years of dealing with hazards of all kinds, Gregg has earned that hammock on the beach – any beach – with his toes in the sand.