In 2000, a subdivision outside a small city in southeast Texas discovered that the water supply wells that individual households had drilled were contaminated with trichloroethylene or TCE as it is commonly called. Since the extent of TCE contamination seemed to extend for over a mile
in length, it was thought the “event” or “events” leading to the contamination had occurred some years ago. The shape of the plume seemed to indicate that the source of the TCE contamination originated at a closed industrial facility located approximately 600 yards
north of the subdivision. However, the width and shape of the plume implied that there might have been more than one source or that ground water flow had shifted direction in the past. Finally, one particular well serving a small commercial facility located at the western edge of the plume
seemed to have the highest concentration of TCE. While the closed industrial plant was already subject to a state-led voluntary cleanup, the subdivision residents and nearby facilities whose wells had been impacted joined forces and sued the closed plant's owners for damages. The closed
plant's owners, while not admitting any liability, agreed to install temporary carbon adsorbers on each contaminated well while the field investigation to determine the plume's parameters proceeded under state guidance and oversite. Since the timing of the field investigation and the lawsuit
did not precisely coincide, it was necessary to accumulate data to support the plaintiff's lawsuit while at the same time refute the defendant's attempt to deflect responsibility for the TCE contamination. Superimposed on this scenario was the constraint to not independently conduct a field
investigation to support the plaintiff's allegation. Thus, it was important to analyze the existing and evolving data to support the case, ensure that the conclusions reached were scientifically supportable, and refute the defendant's attempts to “blame someone else” for most if
not all of the ground water TCE contamination. The result was that forensic methodology, which is the application of the art and science of engineering in matters that will or may ultimately appear in court, was used to characterize the history, source, movement, and present disposition of
the TCE ground water plume.
Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed. WEF Members: Sign in (right panel) with your IngentaConnect user name and password to receive complimentary access.