SAME’s Communities of Interest (COIs) provide opportunities for members to become involved nationally with other professionals focused on a particular technical field or demographic within the A/E/C industry. Through its knowledge-sharing programs and activities, the Environmental COI provides value for its members and serves as a platform for the advancement of thought leadership in the environmental and regulatory field.

Bricks & Clicks recently chatted with Rick Wice, PG, Senior Geologist, Battelle, and Chair of the Environmental COI, on how the COI is keeping members up to date on environmental and regulatory developments, the recently kicked-off SAME National IGE project focused on PFAS, and additional ways the COI is bringing together government and industry to collaborate on major environmental challenges facing the nation.

Bricks & Clicks: Can you describe the mission of the Environmental COI and the value it provides to its members?

Wice: The Environmental COI mission statement says it best. The COI focuses on environmental issues that concern or impact SAME members. We support the 2025 SAME Strategic Plan and support and engage Posts, DOD, and federal agencies by providing members with a wide range of programs, activities, and information to enable them to stay at the forefront of environmental technologies, management, and regulatory developments facing the A/E/C community and national security. The COI is committed to creating opportunities and programs that facilitate meaningful relationships between leaders in industry and government, leading to increased collaboration and partnering.

We aim to provide value to COI members through our webinar programs, our environmental-focused JETC sessions, and networking opportunities. PFAS, remediation technologies, climate change, NEPA, munitions, and compliance are some of our focus areas. To meet our mission, our Steering Committee of COI co-chairs heads up individual focus areas. The Environmental COI has monthly calls to update members on what we are doing and hear from them on their priorities. We also share news through email and the Environmental COI website. Over the past couple years, we have reached out to and collaborated with other COIs, like the Resilience and Energy & Sustainability COIs.

Bricks & Clicks: The Environmental COI recently embarked on an IGE project on PFAS. Can you talk about the project and its goals?

Wice: Strengthening industry-government engagement is the first goal of the 2025 SAME Strategic Plan. In support of that goal, the Environmental COI developed a National IGE project on PFAS. We are preparing a series of webinars and fact sheets to provide easy-to-digest information on the issue. Much of the PFAS literature and guidance (e.g., Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council PFAS Guidance) is technically complex and many pages in length. We are trying to bring the highlights to SAME members. Some of the topics being presented cover PFAS site characterization, analytical methods, remedial technologies, and regulations.

PFAS is a top DOD issue, and the PFAS IGE project has energized COI members and increased our active participation. The effort is being led by a nationally known PFAS expert, Bill DiGuiseppi, PG of Jacobs. I have worked with Bill for several years on the COI.  When I asked him to lead the effort, he did not hesitate and saw the need for the outreach.

Presenters of the COI’s PFAS Myth Busters Panel at JETC 2022

Bricks & Clicks: What challenges do you see ahead for the environmental engineering community?

Wice: PFAS and climate change are the two gorillas in the room right now. However, one may wonder, what is next? There are other environmental issues that need to be addressed, like the day-to-day regulatory compliance requirements our services must meet.

The big challenge is meeting the need to address our environmental commitments in a timely and cost-effective way while maintaining our warfighter’s ability to be the best in a time of uncertain budgets. This is personal to me as my daughter is a Navy submariner (USNA 2019) and my nephew is a newly commissioned Marine officer (USNA 2022).

Bricks & Clicks: How has your involvement with SAME and the Environmental COI benefitted you professionally?

The COI is committed to creating opportunities and programs that facilitate meaningful relationships between leaders in industry and government, leading to increased collaboration and partnering.

Wice: The networking and collaboration opportunities have been outstanding. I have had the opportunity to present at and moderate JETC sessions. I have also led SBC and Capital Week panels with the heads of the environmental programs for the services. These meetings have provided me with a valuable insight into the needs and concerns of the government community.

Being the chair of the Environmental COI, attending Board of Direction meetings, and participating on other COIs has provided me an opportunity to see how others do things and acquire lessons learned that help me with my work. None of this would happen without the encouragement and support of Battelle’s management, which recognizes the value of supporting SAME.

Bricks & Clicks: What has been your favorite part of being COI Chair?

Wice: Networking and working with some very dedicated and great folks that share a common goal of using our knowledge and experience to support the SAME mission. I have been fortunate to learn from the other Environmental COI members and have made some great connections with other COIs and national leadership. Now that we have been having face-to-face national meetings, it has been awesome to see people in person. The relationships and memories I have from being an active SAME member are a blessing.

SAME’s Communities of Interest are a fantastic value-added member benefit that anyone can take advantage of. Open to all SAME members to join and engage with, COIs offer numerous opportunities for personally and professionally rewarding experiences for members of all fields of expertise and demographic.

Along with serving as collaborative platforms for members to engage nationally with other public and private professionals in their field and championing national IGE projects, COIs are a leading source in developing the education and training roadmap for major SAME events, national webinars, and other professional development opportunities. Visit the SAME COI website to learn more about them and find one that fits your passion.