Wildlife coroner Ward Stone, who warned against PCBs, dies at 84

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Ward B. Stone, who delighted environmentalists as New York State’s maverick wildlife pathologist but angered his bosses and corporate polluters by going beyond his authority to highlight the dangers posed by PCBs and other toxic chemicals, 8 in Troy He died on February. NY He was 84.

The apparent cause was respiratory failure, said his daughter, Montana Stone.

During the nearly 42 years he was employed by the Department of Environmental Protection, Mr. Stone and his team performed thousands of carcasses ranging in size from rats to moose, as well as hawks, swans, deer, otters and bears. Causes of death include accidents, poaching, intentional poisoning, and contamination by pesticides and other toxic substances.

But in the course of his forensic investigations, and also on his own, he sampled soil, landfill, ash and other remains and was one of the pioneers, along with Stockholm University’s Gunnar Widmark and Søren Jensen and biologist Robert Riseborough. University of California, Berkeley – In finding evidence that polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, were ubiquitous in the environment.

“In his position as state wildlife pathologist, Ward Stone highlighted environmental threats before others could notice them and gave nature a science-based voice in times of crisis when few other state officials would listen,” Roger Downs , Conservation Director Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club said in a statement.

“Her methods were sometimes unorthodox,” Mr Downes said, “but she always chose to advance environmental justice ahead of pointless bureaucracy, and the natural world is a better place because of her fearless advocacy.”

Mr. Stone found PCBs based on utility poles and other sites; criticized fishermen for weighting their hooks with sinkers made of lead; And even find traces of the pesticide DDT on the grounds of one of your department’s regional offices.

Two decades ago, at the peak of the West Nile virus epidemic that Mr. Stone identified, his lab was being flooded with an average of 300 wildlife carcasses every day. A stainless steel refrigerated mobile chest designed for dead people was adapted for large turtles.

Mr. Stone often ventured beyond his mandate as a pathologist and leaked his findings to the news media. This led some to dismiss him as a brusque, illiterate negotiator.

He enjoyed his reputation as a renegade. “I’ve been called a loose cannon,” he once said, “but I always know where I’m firing.”

But there were other criticisms, which were confirmed in a report by the state inspector general.

In 2012, two years after Mr. Stone retired, the inspector general, responding to years of complaints from state employees and disclosures in The Times-Union of Albany, concluded that he had “been misbehaving with employees, including with near impunity.” Were engaged in malpractices, misappropriation of state resources and disobedience.

Inquiries claimed that he had used the department’s Wildlife Resource Center in the upper part of Delmar as his residence; demoralized employees, who complained of verbal abuse and inadequate training in safety protocols; assigning them personal tasks, such as taking care of the chickens they kept as pets for their children; centrally stored firearms; and failed to submit a record of time spent working for the state.

While he collected thousands of dollars in improper personal benefits during nearly four decades as a state employee, the inspector general’s report found, he was only warned and not officially disciplined, as department officials His direct supervisors were dismissed partly for fear of “fear of negative reactions from his supporters and the news media”.

Mr. Stone denied or downplayed most of the specific charges against him, although he agreed to make minor restitution. He said he took early retirement because he had a family to support and the financial incentive was too tempting to refuse.

He told the Times Union in 2010, “I hate to retire under fire.” “There’s still a lot to do.”

Ward Byron Stone Jr. was born on September 28, 1938, in Hudson, NY, to Ward and Nellie (Smith) Stone.

Growing up in upstate Columbia County, he attended Spencertown Academy, a two-room schoolhouse, where he developed a passion for nature. He then attended the National Naval Medical School in Maryland and served in the Navy in Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

At Syracuse University, he served on the varsity debate team and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1963 and then a master’s degree in animal pathology and parasitology. He joined the Department of Environmental Protection in 1969.

“While he loved pathology,” Montana Stone said of her father in a phone interview, “his love for life and living beings was his true drive and motivation to continue rehabilitating wildlife of all types.” , and better understand the diseases and toxins that profoundly affect us.” Man, wildlife and the environment. ,

Mr. Stone and his partner, ecologist Mary Behm, who lived in Troy, had five children. she escapes from him; In addition to their daughter Montana, they also have children Johnathan, Jeremiah, and Ethan Allen Stone; two stepchildren, Thomas and Emily Caraco; and a daughter, Denise Stone, from his marriage to Lorraine Cebula. Therese Rose Stone, daughter of Mr. Stone and Ms. Beham, preceded him in death.

Mr. Stone said in a 2016 interview with The Cobbleskill Times-Journal, “I’ve spent my life trying to do something about the terrible environmental destruction, much of it done by industries with a lot of power.” Wasn’t popular, but I didn’t let that stop me.

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