The Client, a group of five municipalities, operated several municipal landfills during the 1960s and 1970s. During the 1980s, two of their unlined, 1960s vintage landfills in a rural area (the Site) were blamed for contaminating the surrounding groundwater and causing a wide range of damages on neighboring properties.
The client faced several major problems:
- The State was entrenched in their interpretation of the Site and their belief that groundwater contamination extended far from the landfill. The State wanted the Client to cover remediation costs based on their conceptual model.
- An ineffective, Court-ordered, interim remedial measure changed the path of the impacted groundwater, but didn’t stop it from spreading or reduce potential damage/liability from spreading.
- Legal proceedings, which spanned two decades, with insurers for coverage and the State and surrounding property owners for damages.
The Client asked Dragun to evaluate the Site, interface with the State, and explain the nature and extent of the contamination to the Court.
- First, we completed an intensive Site characterization. We identified a complex hydrogeology: three interconnected aquifers, each with unique groundwater flow. We also determined that groundwater impact from the landfill was limited.
- Second, we integrated forensic results from groundwater modeling, environmental isotopes, and fingerprinting into our Site Conceptual Model (SCM). Our SCM comprehensively described the hydrogeology and the extent of impacted groundwater. Neither the State or Court could disprove our SCM.
- Third, we also used forensic data to distinguish groundwater impacted by brine from groundwater impacted by the landfills. Since the brine-impacted groundwater was in the deepest aquifer, our work saved considerable remediation effort and cost.
- Fourth, we provided expert environmental witness testimony in insurance and damage cases that lasted almost two decades.
Our understanding and communication of the complex hydrogeology was a key factor in our Client eventually being awarded more than $100,000,000 from the insurers. Furthermore, damage awards were limited to neighboring properties actually affected by landfill leachate. Finally, the Client used our SCM model to implement a cost-effective remediation.