Engineering Now :: Volume 6 - Edition 6 :: Spring 2009

Expert in famous water contamination case visits Western Engineering

A Western graduate who was an expert witness in a complex U.S. legal case involving water contamination alleged to have caused cancer in children - a situation portrayed in the 1998 movie Civil Action - spoke at Western on May 1.

George Pinder (BSc'65) was brought to campus by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering for a Distinguished Lecture. Pinder is director of the Research Centre for Groundwater Remediation Design at the University of Vermont.

His presentation, Groundwater Contamination Litigation at Woburn Massachusetts: My Role as an Expert Witness, focused on a Massachusetts Federal Court case initiated by several families who believed their children contracted leukemia because of contaminated groundwater.

At the heart of the case was an allegation that contaminants migrated to two public supply wells and from there to the water supplying their homes and that these contaminants caused the leukemia.

Expert witnesses on opposing sides disagreed on the behaviour of the groundwater system. Groundwater models and field experiments were employed. Still, the jury was asked to decide based upon these conflicting opinions.

The resulting decision highlighted the challenges faced by laypersons in understanding abstract scientific evidence.

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.: Allison Stevenson
Spencer Engineering Building, Room 2074
Phone: (519) 850-2917 Fax: (519) 661-3808