Peter was drawn to public interest law by taking on a corporate polluter during college. Suspecting that local manufacturing companies were illegally dumping waste, Peter and his friends conducted their own investigation and in 1970 turned a company in to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Peter submitted a sworn statement against Tobin Packing Co. for dumping industrial waste into the Patroon Creek, which flows into the Hudson River. The company agreed to a fine of $2,250 on December 12, 1973, half of which went to Peter as a "bounty" for turning the company in. The case generate press coverage in Albany, with The Albany Times Union describing Peter as "[a] 24-year-old mathematics major at SUNY at the time he filed the affidavit, Van Schaick had long expressed concern over the flow of effluent into Patroon Creek. He said in his papers that he based his claim on a discharge survey conducted by Tobin and an independent sampling taken by himself and members of the PYE (Protect Your Environment) Club at the university, during which pictures were taken and water samples were obtained." Shirley Armstrong, "Pollution Vigilance May Pay Very Well" Albany Times Union, Dec. 13, 1973. Peter always cited this story as an example of how private individuals could play a role in public enforcement and of "doing well by doing good."