Andrew McCartor ’08

Alumnus is saving lives by solving pollution problems.

  • McCartor

Saving Lives by Solving Pollution Problems

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the secret Gorlovka Chemical Plant in eastern Ukraine was abandoned with 30 tons of TNT and 2,000 tons of other highly toxic chemicals left in pipes and tanks. The crumbling plant is a deadly dump effectively combined with a bomb—in the middle of a city of 200,000 people.

Andrew McCartor manages a project to clean up the plant for the Blacksmith Institute, an international nonprofit organization that deals with life-threatening pollution. After three years of technical planning, negotiating with local and national authorities, securing funds, and developing partnerships, the project to safely remove and dispose of the explosives and toxic chemical is nearly complete.

Because it was a secret government facility, few people have even seen the plant. “It’s beautiful…and very dangerous,” said McCartor, Blacksmith’s regional program director for Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Mongolia, in a three-minute video he created. After the TNT and chemicals are removed, the remaining buildings will come down, and “it will be safe. But it will be gone. So I wanted to share it first.”

You can view the video below. It is “beautiful, haunting, and a demonstration of why Andrew is the perfect person to be heading up these kinds of vital projects all over the world,” said Professor Steve Kantor.


McCartor graduated from Bucknell University with a bachelor’s degree in economics in 2002. After two years of teaching English to high school students in a small Japanese fishing town and a further year of travel, he entered law school. McCartor then moved to New York City with his wife, Cecelia, and son, Miles.

“I graduated when the economy was in absolute free fall,” he said. “After a year of spinning my wheels not finding the position I thought I was entitled to, I tucked my tail between my legs and took an internship at an organization that I thought was doing really interesting work. That was one of the best decisions I have made. Pride is a hurdle. Set it aside. Do something you like, even if you have to start at the bottom. Work hard and get good at it. Once you are good at it, someone will pay you well to do it.”

Tyler Volm ’08 is an attorney with the Portland firm Barran Liebman and is a member of the law school’s Recent Graduate Council (RGC). He submitted this profile on behalf of the RGC.