Barry Fritz spent more than a decade working to make Fermilab more environmentally sound. Starting in June of 1992, Fritz worked out of ES&H department of AD. He retired on Aug. 8, 2011.
In 1993, Fritz began managing cleanup of PCB contamination in the main ring. The organic compound was once widely used as a coolant and insulating fluid, but it’s now known that PCBs are highly toxic.
“The laboratory ordered transformers specifically without PCBs, but the manufacturer used PCB oil to test the transformers before shipping them to us,” Fritz said. “That oil was replaced before delivery, but enough PCB was left behind in the windings of the transformers to contaminate the new oil to regulated levels.”
Oil from the transformers found its way into the soil due to leaks and early 1970s sampling practices that did not account for PCB’s environmental toxicity. Fritz had a tall order to fill. While people were not likely to come in contact with the PCBs during normal laboratory operations, there was a potential for the PCBs to migrate over time and adversely affect the environment.
“Over a decade, we cleaned 24 different buildings,” Fritz said. “We’d excavate the contaminated soil and ship it to a designated landfill designed to handle that type of waste.”
The site was declared clean by the EPA in early 2010.
“Barry’s most notable career achievement was the PCB cleanup,” said John Anderson, the department head. “He’s extraordinarily well-organized. He kept track of things and kept them moving forward.”
Ray Lewis, the deputy department head and the group leader responsible for environmental protection and chemical waste, agreed.
“Barry has an encyclopedic knowledge of environmental rules and policies,” Lewis said. “His heart was definitely in the environmental program.”
According to the Anderson, the department is now going through some growing pains.
“We are missing his expertise,” Anderson said. “We’ve learned that Barry did a lot more than we even knew. We keep finding ourselves asking, ‘He did that, too?’”
Sylvia Wilson, ES&H specialist, said that Fritz was excellent at his job and well-respected. She works in AD, where Fritz was her supervisor and colleague.
“He was always a pleasure to work with and very supportive,” Wilson said. “I wish him the best in his retirement.”
Fritz plans to visit his son, a member of the Peace Corps, in Eastern Europe. He also has plans to volunteer and spend more time with his grandchildren.
“The folks at Fermilab were really wonderful, and, physically, this place is amazing,” Fritz said. “This was a wonderful place to spend a career.”