President George Bush on June 21 nominated Clifton resident Bill Wark to join the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) for the next five years. The CSB is a federal agency founded in 1998 that analyzes the causes of chemical hazards. It investigates everything
from industrial accidents to potentially man-made disasters, containing the problem and stopping it at its source.
WARK HAS been a resident of Northern Virginia since 1967. Born and raised in Caribou, Maine, he had no idea he would someday end up managing chemical safety for the federal government. He attended college at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, majoring in education.
"I wanted to be a teacher," he said. He never decided what he wanted to teach, but his studies had a concentration in English and history.
Life started to take him in a different direction once he joined the Navy, where he spent more than five years, including a nine-month tour of duty in Vietnam. During that time, he was able to work his way up to the rank of lieutenant.
When Wark was ready to move on, he settled in Virginia, securing a job with the Justice Department. Meanwhile, he earned his master's degree in Public Administration at George Washington University and, before long, he became the staff director for National Internal Security.
He worked his way up through the government until he found his career handling emergencies with FEMA. Under former President Ronald Reagan, he became a member of FEMA's Emergency Mobilization Preparations Board and Deputy Director for the Technological Hazards Division for 18 years.
Though the CSB position is likely to be a different set of responsibilities, Wark remains confident. "My background is in state and local planning," he said. "I hope to bring that experience and expertise to the board."
WHILE THE CSB is a relatively new organization, chemical accidents could potentially do a great deal of damage without federal action. Most of the accidents the CSB deals with are highly localized, where employees of whatever industry that has the accident are at risk. There is, however, a possibility that people outside of the industry could be injured.
"The CSB was fashioned after the Transportation Board, which already dealt with accidents," explained Wark. "However, [with chemicals], there is a potential for more serious accidents with off-site consequences."
If people outside the industry could be injured, many might wonder if there is any possibility for chemicals to be used in a terrorist attack. Wark acknowledged that this is theoretically possible, but will generally not be the sort of thing with which he deals. "[The CSB] primarily investigates accidents," he said. "However, we would probably be involved with any man-made accidents."
Wark volunteers with the Community Emergency Response Team of Fairfax County, so he does not leave his commitment to local community safety at the workplace. His wife, Lynne Garvey Hodge is also very involved in the Clifton community and runs the Canary Cottage bed-and-breakfast on Main Street in Clifton.