Meet Dave Backus, CTEH’s Director of Environmental Sciences

Mr. Dave Backus, PG, CPG, has been an environmental sciences consultant for more than 25 years.  He has a diverse background in managing, designing, and implementing investigation and remediation techniques at uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.  His background includes experience in site characterization, risk management, acquisition due diligence, litigation support, and remedial design.  You can see more about his background here.

He joined CTEH earlier this year, and we sat down recently to get to know him better. . .

Inside CTEH: Tell us how you transitioned to CTEH?

Backus: I have known CTEH since its inception more than 17 years ago.  I was working under a dedicated contract in the emergency response branch for EPA Region IV with Roy F. Weston.  After three years there, I moved to an environmental remediation consulting company based in Memphis, TN, and had the opportunity early on to meet several founders of CTEH.  I watched CTEH grow over the years and hired them several times for toxicology consulting.

We had several clients in common, and those clients always spoke very highly of CTEH’s reputation and experience.  Later, as I began looking for more challenging opportunities, my first call was to one of the founders at CTEH and was asked that I consider joining their team.  I was excited about the possibility and within a few weeks we had an agreement for me to join as director of environmental services.  I have now been here just over six months.

Inside CTEH: What are your goals for the environmental services division at CTEH?

Backus: I really have two goals for environmental services.  One is to provide our clients a compliment to our Toxicology Emergency Response Program (TERP).  Once the TERP team begins air monitoring during a chemical release emergency, for example, I envision our environmental team assisting the client in managing the environmental challenges of the site, while, working with stakeholders to ensure clean closure.  An advantage of our response capabilities is we are usually one of the first teams on scene, understand the issues, know the stakeholders, and are prepared to smoothly transition to the environmental phase of the response.  In these instances, our environmental services are an extension of our TERP program, and involve a wide variety of focused sampling, such as groundwater, soil, sediments, and surface water, tailored to the site conditions and needs of the client.

My second goal at CTEH, is to build a sustainable traditional environmental services practice where we assist clients in compliance with local, state, and federal environmental regulations.  Those regulations cover primarily air, water, and waste.

Inside CTEH: Tell me more about your first goal of complementing the TERP program.

Backus: Our group will serve as a focused sampling unit for environmental media – groundwater, soil, sediments, and surface water.  These samples are routinely collected as a follow on to perimeter and worker exposure air monitoring.  By providing both services to clients, we have the opportunity to provide a comprehensive and consistent product to our clients that have experienced a toxic substance release.

Because of CTEH’s unique emergency response capabilities, we can be on the ground and ready to pull samples within several hours.  This program allows us to team with TERP and send environmental professionals to the initial response.  It’s the rapid response capability that really sets CTEH apart.

We’ve done this on a several responses and clients are amazed at our ability to collect data in the field – in electronic format – and immediately post the results on a situational awareness map.  The map can be immediately provided to regulators and stakeholders to make important decisions about the response.  This happens in a matter of hours, not days or weeks.  Our clients really appreciate the added value this tool provides.