Science in the Court Room
The legal disputes facing contemporary society increasingly depend on the methods of science. Decisions should reflect a sound scientific and technical understanding so that our laws can respond to the needs of the public. This is especially important when considering groundwater disputes; the subsurface is ‘invisible’ and often deemed mysterious, making it necessary to apply the principles and tools of science to model, visualize, and understand groundwater systems. The following problems and short projects provide an opportunity to appreciate the need for science in public disputes through hands-on problem solving. A broad range of topics are covered – from groundwater contamination ‘who done it’ problems, to human impacts on groundwater-dependent ecosystems and more.
A Civil Action - the Woburn Trial (Basic Version) In 1972 in the town of Woburn, Massachusetts, families of 13 different children who had contracted a rare form of childhood leukemia sued two large companies for the contamination of their community water supply wells. But the companies denied any responsibility, arguing that water originating from their plants may never be able to reach the community wells given the local hydrogeologic conditions. Instead, the companies blamed the heavily polluted Aberjona River as the source of contamination to the wells, given it's very close proximity to the community wells. You be the judge... who is responsible?!? Revisit the famous trial as modern-day ‘expert consultants’, addressing the debate issues based on the interpretation of groundwater flow and contaminant transport simulations. (PURELY FORWARD MODELING - NO CALBRATION) (Science in the Court Room- 14)  
Woburn, MA superfund site project Advanced - Integrated project; multi-layer aquifer modeling; source water tracking; contaminant tracking; groundwater-surface water interaction. Background: In 1972, in the working-class town of Woburn, Massachusetts (population ~40,000), 13 children in 8 different families had contracted a rare form of childhood cancer (acute lymphocytic leukemia). The inflicted families suspected that the drinking water - long known for its for its color and bad taste – had become contaminated by nearby industrial activity in Woburn. For seven years, however, the inflicted families struggled to convince anyone that there was a serious problem with the drinking water. (Science in the Court Room- 14)  
Impact Analysis of Infrastructure Development on Groundwater-fed Wetlands ADVANCED – Integrated groundwater modeling project; flow tracking; infrastructure impact analysis. Background: Under consideration is the construction of a permanent facility at Fort Custer Training Center (FCTC) in southwest Michigan, which may potentially impact the existing environmental conditions. Regulations require that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be conducted and this hydrologic analysis is an integral component of that larger study. In particular, the FCTC has multiple groundwater-fed streams and wetlands, including the globally unique and sensitive prairie fen wetland distinction. Groundwater-fed water resources are desirable for numerous reasons; especially from an ecological perspective. This is due to their extreme biodiversity as prairie fens serve as a habitat for rare, threatened, or endangered species. (Science in the Court Room- 14)  
Well Conflict Resolution Beginner to Advanced - analytical and numerical sub-problems, which can be done sequentially or individually. Background: A dispute has arisen between two farmers after one of the farmers installed a 500 GPM irrigation well 2000 ft. from the small domestic water supply well of the other farmer (see above). After the irrigation well had been operating for 3 months it was observed that the water level in the domestic (Science in the Court Room- 14)  
Water supply expansion and wetlands Intermediate - 2D flow modeling and water balance analysis. Background: The town of Hubertville is planning to expand its water supply by constructing a pumping well in an unconfined aquifer. The well is designed to pump constantly at a rate of 20,000 m3/day. Well construction was halted by the State Fish and Game Service who manage the Green Swamp Conservation area. The agency claimed that pumping would “significantly reduce” groundwater discharge to the swamp and damage a waterfowl habitat. The town claimed the fully penetrating river boundary to the north and the groundwater divide located near the center of the valley would prevent any change in flow to the swamp. (Science in the Court Room- 14)  
Well Interference Dispute II Beginner to Advanced - analytical and numerical sub-problems, which can be done sequentially or individually. Background: A dispute has arisen between two farmers after one of the farmers installed a 500 GPM irrigation well 2000 ft. from the small domestic water supply well of the other farmer (see above). After the irrigation well had been operating for 3 months it was observed that the water level in the domestic well had declined over 30 feet. The owner of the domestic well claims that the decline in water level in his well is due to pumping from the irrigation well and is trying to restrict that pumping. The owner of the irrigation well claims that the decline is related to the recent drought; he has been advised that the "radius of influence"" of his well is at most 500 feet." (Science in the Court Room- 14)  
Well interference Dispute III A dispute has arisen between two farmers after one of the farmers installed a 500 gpm irrigation well 2000 ft. from the small domestic water supply well of the other farmer. After the irrigation well had been operating for 3 months it was observed that the water level in the domestic well had declined over 30 feet. Determine whether it is possible for the water level decline in the domestic well to be produced by pumping from the irrigation well. (Science in the Court Room- 14)  
Dewatering Controversey Big Dune Shores LLC is proposing to construct a 17 ft deep boat marina near Big Lake at the mouth of the Gitchi River. But they are running into fierce opposition from the local community and environmental activists who argue that the excavation of the new marina will cause the surrounding water table to decline, including in the area of several important interdunal wetland ecosystems. Dune Shores thinks that a sealed marina bottom will eliminate any long-term impact on the water table in the wetland areas, and a quick dewatering operation will result in a temporary drawdown of the water table that is well within natural fluctuations. You be the judge … would the proposed plan by the developer work? Should permits be issued for construction? (Science in the Court Room- 14)  
Lake Augmentation Controversy Home owners from a beautiful lake community faced a water problem: their lake was ‘sick’ – it was losing water and lake levels were getting lower. An expert "fixed" the problem by pumping deep groundwater directly into the lake. But years layer, the same problems returned. A second expert says the plan never really worked in the first place. Determine if the lake augmentation project was doomed from the beginning. (Science in the Court Room- 14)  
PFAS Impact Area Analysis John and Jane operate a successful, luxurious resort, but their groundwater supply is threatened by a major underground toxic PFAS plume found upstream of their community well. Initially, they were told the plume is outside of the 10-year “wellhead protection area”, or area of contribution. But now they aren't so sure as more data about the complex subsurface has become available. You be the judge...what is the risk to John and Jane's business? (Science in the Court Room- 14)  
Dam break and basement flooding dispute Those Dam Guys LLC was contracted to take on an controversial project - removing the Plankton Dam along an otherwise picturesque stretch of the Plankton River. While they were using a control structure to drawdown the water level in the reservoir, the system failed, causing the downstream river levels to rise by 4m. Several citizens sued Those Dam Guys, claiming their basements were damaged because of the rising groundwater levels caused by high river levels after the dam break. The consultants argued that the basement flooding due was to the inherent surface drainage issues in the clay rich floodplain area, and had nothing to do with river level rise after the dam break. You be the judge..is Those Dam Guys LLC responsible?? (Science in the Court Room- 14)