On his bookshelf at ATC Group Services, University of Vermont (UVM) graduate alum Tom Broido (NRP ’83) keeps a worn binder of notes and 20th century mimeographs from a college course called Forest Watershed Management he took more than thirty years ago. The class, taught by former Professor John “Doc” Donnelly in the then School of Natural Resources (SNR), still provides Tom with some of the water management tools he uses today. He is a consultant to student group projects in the present-day version of this course taught by UVM Research Professor Don Ross.
Tom manages the Williston, Vermont branch of ATC Group Services, a national environmental consulting, engineering, and industrial hygiene firm with 115 offices nationwide. Tom’s path to success as a 25-year leader in the environmental field had a bumpy, but persistent, start.
Growing up in South Burlington, Vermont, Tom enjoyed hiking, skiing and the outdoors, which inspired him to earn an undergraduate degree in forest biology with a concentration in wildlife biology at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse. He returned to Vermont after graduation in the late 1970s with aspirations of working in the wildlife field, in particular with songbirds. Struggling to find work in his field, he made do with construction work during the summers and skiing during the winter.
Realizing that skiing wasn’t a long-term career, he decided to pursue graduate school to study human impacts on songbird populations and applied to SNR’s wildlife graduate program. The competitiveness of the wildlife program, along with a change in administrations in Washington which cut most non-game wildlife funding, compelled Tom to switch his focus from birds to water. He accepted a master’s candidate position in water resources in SNR’s then graduate natural resources planning program.
“We all need clean drinking water,” Tom told himself. “I could still look at the impacts of humans on the environment but use water as the medium instead of songbirds.”
Tom jumped on board the LaPlatte River Basin project funded by the US Department of Agriculture to study non-point source pollution impacting Lake Champlain. His thesis research focused on the effectiveness of using winter manure storage on dairy farms to help prevent excess drainage of nutrients and sediments into surface waters.
Tom appreciated that former SNR Professor Alan Cassell gave him an opportunity in the School’s graduate program, and he respected former Research Professor Jack Clausen’s mentorship as his thesis advisor.
“I had been trying to get into graduate school for several years by that point, and Al was the one who opened the door for me. Jack inspired independent thinking and taking responsibility that work got done correctly,” said Tom, who graduated with an MS in December 1982. “I learned valuable lessons in teamwork and gained technical skills that I’ve carried with me into my current position.”
After graduation, Tom again struggled to find full-time work. He continued on in the Laplatte River Basin project for six-months before securing a temporary job with the State of Vermont Department of Health to look at herbicides in ground water.
“As a graduate student I studied surface water, but I realized I could use the same methods for a different contaminant – herbicides – in a different medium – ground water,” said Tom, who continued to build experience in the science and practices related to human impacts on water resources.
After almost four years in temporary positions, Tom then took a position as the Toxic Assessment Section Chief with the Health Department. Working with new contaminants and another new medium – air – he managed the department’s indoor air quality, toxicology, and asbestos programs.
His persistence and accrued experiences in water and air quality monitoring paid off. Tom was recruited to become the branch manager of the former environmental consulting firm Environmental Field Services, which through a series of transactions, was soon acquired by Tom’s current employer ATC Group Services.
Tom found his niche. He established ATC’s Vermont branch office in 1992. For the past 25 years, he has managed the branch’s clients and supervised the office’s finances and its now twelve employees. The branch provides services in environmental health and workplace safety, consulting, and engineering to the healthcare, manufacturing, construction, and petroleum industries; federal, state, and municipal governments; and educational institutions. Many of his employees have stayed long-term, often 15 years or more.
As principal scientist, Tom manages complex projects and coordinates interdisciplinary teams of experts in the biological, physical, and social sciences. Project activities include technical reviews for hydrogeological, industrial hygiene, and indoor air quality investigations; environmental site assessments; brownfields redevelopment; and monitoring, testing, and decontaminating lead, asbestos, and PCBs in building materials; among other activities.
Tom and his staff teach training classes for clients on workplace health and safety in compliance with OSHA regulations. A third of the office’s work stems from the healthcare industry. In several area hospitals, ATC monitors infection control during construction projects, tests chemical fume hoods and biosafety cabinets, performs worker exposure monitoring, conducts air filtration testing in hospital pharmacies, and monitors asbestos abatement projects.
Tom and his team also work to protect the environment. They evaluate underground fuel storage tank releases and conduct spill and leak remediation; work to clean up chlorinated solvent contamination; and consult with schools and colleges. Tom works closely with UVM’s Physical Plant.
“We all need clean air and water. It goes right back to that,” said Tom. “I like that ATC’s services help to protect the environment and to keep workers safe. And I appreciate in my role that I can give young college grads their first job in the environmental field, which is something I struggled with.”
Tom and his wife, Sue Storey, a self-employed graphic designer and illustrator, live in Hinesburg, Vermont, where they raised two daughters. Halle Broido (UVM ’12) teaches preschool in South Hero, Vermont, and Galen Broido, who graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville, works in marketing and web design at a durable medical supply company in Asheville.
Tom is past president and member of the Environmental Information Association and on the board of directors of the Vermont Environmental Consortium. He is an avid backcountry skier and cyclist who also continues to enjoy hiking, as well as fly fishing and golfing with Sue. He volunteers with the Green Mountain Club to help maintain Vermont’s Long Trail, assists with Cochran's Ski Area’s after school children’s program in Richmond, and is on the board of the Richard Tom Foundation, which promotes the adventure of cycling and safe roads for all users.