In Memoriam – Thomas J. Grizzard, “Protector of the Occoquan”

October 13, 2017


Photo courtesy of Thomas J. Grizzard.

Photo courtesy of Thomas J. Grizzard.

Many water sector professionals in the Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. areas know the name Tom Grizzard. The watershed planning and management professional, who had become known as the “protector of the Occoquan,” died on June 24.

Grizzard was a prized colleague for his skills and personality, according to Beth Turner, past president of the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.). “Tom smiled with his whole face … [and] laughed with his whole body. I will always remember Tom’s laughs and the joy he emanated; it infected everyone around him, including me.”

Earning the title of “protector of the Occoquan”

Turner first met Grizzard in 1973 while studying at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech; Blacksburg). Jimmie Jenkins, WEF member since 1974, also met Grizzard at Virginia Tech that year. Grizzard received bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from Virginia Tech. While still a Ph.D. student in 1974, he became director of the Occoquan Watershed Monitoring Laboratory (OWML; Manassas, Va.), a position he held until he retired in 2014.

“Tom established a world-class environmental laboratory at the Occoquan Lab and developed a reputation as an expert in water resources on such matters as stormwater impacts on water quality, stormwater monitoring, point-source impacts on water quality, wastewater recycling, [and] drinking water,” Jenkins said. “He became known as the ‘protector of the Occoquan,’ dedicated to preserving this important water supply. He became the ‘go-to’ guy for any question related to the reservoir or regional water quality in general.”

Cliff Randall taught Grizzard during his graduate studies and appointed him director of the OWML. The laboratory was established to protect and preserve water quality in the Occoquan Reservoir. Grizzard was “a perfect pick” for the position, which required a range of technical skills and high-level interpersonal skills to talk to local government leaders, Randall said. “[He] not only saw that the OWML performed all of these duties, but improved and expanded the monitoring system and the quality of the analytical methodology utilized by the OWML,” Randall said. He also served on the Commonwealth of Virginia’s licensing board for water and wastewater operators.

Grizzard authored numerous publications and papers including content in the book, Stormwater Management in Urbanizing Areas. He conducted research on various pollutants in local watersheds. He made substantial contributions to the body of knowledge on the urban water cycle relating to potable reuse of reclaimed wastewater, management of drinking water systems, and characterization and control of urban stormwater. He performed research that changed water system management and influenced laws regarding water resource management, Randall said.

Dedicating time to water sector organizations

“Early in his career, Tom became active in the Virginia Water Environment Association,” Jenkins said. A WEF life member, he joined the Virginia Water Environment Association (VWEA), the Federal Water Quality Association, and WEF in 1971.

Grizzard served as chair of several VWEA committees, was a member of the VWEA Select Society of Sanitary Sludge Shovelers (5S), and became VWEA president from 1984 to 1985. He also represented Virginia on WEF’s Board of Control, now known as the WEF House of Delegates. In 1986, Grizzard received the Bedell Award from VWEA in recognition of his leadership, devotion, and service to the WEF Member Association.

Leaving a lasting impression

While working at OWML, Grizzard became a Virginia Tech professor. “[He] developed a graduate program in environmental engineering at the Falls Church Joint Virginia Tech-University of Virginia [Charlottesville] Graduate Studies Center,” Randall said. At the center, he spent three decades as director for civil and environmental engineering graduate programs in the National Capital Region.

Grizzard taught several courses and “took great pride in educating students who filled important positions,” Jenkins said. In 2014, he was named professor emeritus in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech in recognition of his service to the university.

Grizzard’s reputation earned him a spot as a member of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Restoration Program. His contribution to water reuse research led to his appointment by the City of Singapore to the advisory committee for the treatment of wastewater and its conversion into drinking water.

Jenkins will miss Grizzard as a colleague, but more importantly as a friend. “He was honest and forthright and always tried to do the right thing,” Jenkins said. When he smiled “he beamed,” Jenkins said. “He created a positive atmosphere in any room with that smile.”

— Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights

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