Dr. G. Fred Lee, a prominent figure in environmental quality education, research, consulting, and public service, passed away on October 15, 2022. Born and raised in Delano, CA, the eldest son of a grape ranch foreman, he earned his BA degree in sanitary science from San Jose State College, Master of Science in Public Health degree from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and PhD degree in environmental engineering from Harvard University.
Dr. Lee devoted his life to teaching, mentoring graduate students, research, independent consulting, and professional and public service; his focus was always the development and incorporation of sound technical information in the evaluation and management of environmental quality issues to enable them to be addressed with technically valid, cost-effective, and environmentally protective approaches. He was never shy about calling out technically faulty or incompetent work.
For 30 years he served on the graduate civil and environmental engineering/science faculty of several major US universities where he taught, conducted research, supervised the Masters and PhD work of 90 students, published extensively in professional journals and actively undertook public service for the regulatory, professional, and lay communities. In the early 1960s Dr. Lee developed the Water Chemistry Program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, the first program of its type to provide sound graduate education in all aspects of water supply water quality and water pollution control, including impacts of pollutants on water quality independent of their implications for public health/sanitary quality. That program served as a model for numerous other universities’ programs in ensuing years. During the 12 years that he directed the Water Chemistry Program, Dr. Lee expanded academic course offerings and research, and supervised the MS and/or PhD degree work of more than 70 students. At that time he was also instrumental in the conception and development of the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology (ET&T) as a means to improve the dissemination of technical findings of environmental chemistry research.
From the UW Madison, Dr. Lee went on to hold professorships at the University of Texas at Dallas where he developed and led the Environmental Sciences graduate degree program, Colorado State University, and Texas Tech University. He completed his academic career as Distinguished Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, NJ where he also served as Director of the Site Assessment and Remedial Action Division of its Cooperative Center for Research in Hazardous and Toxic Substances. His research, lecturing, and advising activities took him to nearly every continent, including Antarctica.
In 1989 Dr. Lee retired from his academic career and moved with his wife to El Macero, CA to focus their professional activities on private consulting and professional and public service. Areas of emphasis included domestic water supply water quality; investigation and management of surface and groundwater quality including impacts of wastewater discharges, stormwater runoff, and contaminated sediments; and investigation and management impacts of municipal solid waste and hazardous waste landfills, Superfund, and other hazardous chemical sites on groundwater quality; and evaluation and management of excessive growth of algae and water weeds. Dr. Lee was involved professionally world-wide in advising governmental agencies, private concerns, and environmental groups, lecturing, presenting short-courses; he published more than 1,100 professional papers and reports discussing the results of his work.
Dr. Lee’s work in the Davis/Sacramento area included projects with the DeltaKeeper and Sportfishing Protection Alliance focused on the protection of Delta water quality including issues associated with the proposed tunnel project, serving for many years as the independent technical advisor to the Davis South Campus Superfund Oversight Committee on the LEHR Superfund Site, as well as serving as a consultant to several groups on pollution investigation/remediation activities at the Southern Pacific/Union Pacific Sacramento Railyard Site in Sacramento.
Dr. Lee was a Board Certified Environmental Engineer, a registered professional engineer (PE) in the state of Texas, and a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers. He long served on the American Academy of Environmental Engineers’ (AAEE) examination board for AAEE professional engineer certification, and for 2 decades served as Chief Examiner for Northern California in the Water Supply and Wastewater and in the Hazardous Waste areas. For many years Dr. Lee served as an invited ACS lecture tour speaker and served on the editorial boards for several professional publications.
Dr. Lee is survived by his wife and professional partner, Dr. Anne J. Lee, their sons George and Andrew, and his daughter, Susan.