Most people in Garden City know their neighbor Rob Alvey for being the person who spearheaded the creation of the nine-acre Garden City Bird Sanctuary back in 1996.
While there are those who may know about the fact that he works for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), many may not realize that his relationship with nature and the science of geology goes back more than 40 years.
He was recently elected to the 2017 Board of Directors of the New York State Council of Professional Geologists (NYSCPG). The NYSCPG is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the profession of geology in New York state and was instrumental in efforts that resulted in the state passing a licensing law for geologic professionals.
New York became the 32nd state to require that professional geologists be licensed as of Nov. 21, this assures the public that competency will be ensured for decisions regarding geologic issues in New York state and that they will be made by qualified professionals.
It is being administered by the New York State Department of Education and the Department of State. It’s just another step for Alvey, who originally started out wanting to a marine biologist/oceanographer when he was accepted at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as a way of heeding his father’s advice and not following into the engineering profession.
“I picked up a parasite in my skin swimming in Hawaii. Any time I got near ocean water and salt water would touch my skin, I got hives for a few years. I got accepted to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and was a chemistry major going in. My intentions were after two years, to transfer down to Florida-Atlantic where my mom and dad were and become an oceanographer,” he recalled. “But in my sophomore year, I took a course in historical geology with a fellow named Professor Gerry Friedman that blew my mind. He made it so much fun because he would do little songs and he was just a great lecturer. It was the first course at RPI that I enjoyed. I didn’t like organic chemistry, so I switched to geology. The next course I took was geology and oceanography and realized I could do this on land and not worry about getting wet.”
Over the next few decades, Alvey spent time serving with the USEPA at their regional headquarters in New York City. He has served primarily with the Emergency and Remedial Response Division known as Superfund and was also a Brownfields Project Manager for the EPA’s grants programs in Utica and Rome, NY.
After a request from Senator Chuck Schumer, Alvey served on an EPA task force to help address the significant groundwater issues associated with the former Grumman/Navy facilities in Bethpage. The Garden City resident has both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in geology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and was initially employed in the utility engineering and construction field with EBASCO Services in New York. After leaving EBASCO in 1982, Alvey served a year in Saudi Arabia as a geotechnical engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and as consulting geologist for the New York City Transit Authority.
Alvey was also a hydrogeologist with Nassau County back in the late 1980s, worked for Brooklyn Union Gas in the early 1990s, helping with the innovative compressed natural gas vehicle fuel market and the utility efforts to assess former manufactured gas plants. Since joining the EPA, he has received several Bronze Awards for his efforts on complex Superfund sites and was co-chair of the EPA’s Groundwater Forum.
Alvey has also served for more than a decade as an adjunct professor at York CUNY College with the Earth and Physical Sciences Department. And while he admittedly is being more selective with which assignments he’ll work on for the EPA in the interest of cutting back, mentorship and teaching is a big part of what gives him joy with his job
“I’m not a young person anymore and I’ve been spending the last year and a half pushing back,” Alvey said. “I’d rather mentor young people and bring them in. I’ve got a good group. I was head of the EPA’s Groundwater Forum for a few years, which is a group of geologists from across the country and now I’ve got a new person in the groundwater forum that I’m working with and it’s nice because you can share ideas. Plus, geologists like beer, which is a good reason to go into the field.”
With this recent appointment, Alvey can continue to help up-and-comers in the geology field, particularly given the new licensing requirements introduced by the state of New York.
“It is exciting to be able to work with the NYSCPG and in collaboration with many of the other geologic professional societies as the impact of the new geology license law goes into effect,” Alvey explained. “It is something I supported nearly 40 years ago. The geologic profession has many opportunities for the next generation of professionals, so I am pleased to be able to contribute my time to help qualified young geologists obtain their license.”