UNION COLLEGE

Environmental Science, Policy & Engineering Program

Fall 2023

Environmental Forensics

ENS-299

Professor Dr. Ashraf Ghaly, P.E.
Department Engineering
Office Olin 102D
Tel., email 518-388-6515, ghalya@union.edu

Lectures: TTH 10:55 - 12:40 PM, Olin 306.

Office hours: immediately after class or request an appointment.

COURSE DESCRIPTION

An interdisciplinary course that will present topics detailing the intersection between the environment, ethics, law, society, litigation, policy, economics, pollution/contamination, cleanup, testing, standards, and sustainability. Sources of environmental problems are usually related to emissions, pollution, contamination, and/or waste disposal. Whether the cause is intentional or non-intentional, natural factors or a man-made disaster, or due to normal operation or accident, a crisis ensues and cleanup becomes necessary. This inevitably leads to legal actions and litigations that rely on experts in conducting scientific investigations to establish the facts surrounding potential controversies. Topics discussed in the course include liability, environmental site assessment, insurance litigation, toxic torts, science tools, sampling & measurements, statistical analysis, chemical fingerprinting, contaminant transport models, and environmental forensic microscopy. The course will illustrate the above points using case studies.

COURSE GRADE

COURSE GRADE
90+ = A 85+ = A- 80+ = B+ 75+ = B 70+ = B- 65+ = C+ 60+ = C 55+ = C- 50+ = D

NOTES

TEXTBOOK

Sullivan, P.J., Agardy, F.J., and Traub R.K. (2000). Practical Environmental Forensics: Process and Case Histories, Wiley & Co. (ISBN-10 0471353981 )

COURSE SYLLABUS

ENVIRONMENTAL FORENSICS INVESTIGATION PIVOTAL QUESTIONS

  • Who caused the contamination?
  • When did the contamination occur?
  • How did the contamination occur? Was it accidental (such as the PB Gulf oil spill) or a series of routine operating releases (such as GE’s PCB release into the Hudson River)?
  • How extensive is the contamination?
  • Is there evidence of neglect or fraud?
  • What levels of contamination have people been exposed to?
  • Can environmental forensics assist in allocating remediation costs?

THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH, AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH

  • A QUESTION OF ETHICS

  • A DIFFERENCE OF OPINION

  • DEFENDING THE FAITH

  • A TORTUOUS PATH

A LEGACY OF WASTE AND CHEMICAL POLLUTION

  • CHEMICAL-HANDLING PRACTICE

  • A HISTORY OF WASTE AND POLLUTION

INTRODUCTION TO ENVIRONMENTAL LAW

  • THE EVOLUTION OF THE REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT

  • REAL ESTATE AND PROPERTY TRANSFERS AND THE ROLE OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL AUDIT

AN INTRODUCTION TO INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL LOSSES

  • OCCURRENCE-BASED POLICIES

  • ALLOCATION OF DEFENSE AND INDEMNITY COSTS

  • POLLUTION EXCLUSIONS

  • CLAIMS-MADE POLICIES

SITE HISTORIES: THE PAPER TRAIL HOW AND WHY TO FOLLOW IT

  • SITE HISTORIES: WHAT THEY ARE

  • PHASE I ENVIRONMENTAL SITE ASSESSMENTS: A DIFFERENT SORT OF HISTORY

  • POTENTIALLY RESPONSIBLE PARTY SEARCHES: THE USE AND LIMITS OF HISTORY IN ENVIRONMENTAL FORENSICS

THE FORENSIC APPLICATION OF CONTAMINANT TRANSPORT MODELS

  • THE CONTAMINANT MODELING PROCESS

  • PROBLEM STATEMENT: CONVECTION—DISPERSION- ADSORPTION MODEL

  • SOLUTION OF CDA EQUATION FOR CONTINUOUS INJECTION OF CONTAMINANT

  • SOLUTION OF CDA EQUATION FOR A SLUG SOURCE OF CONTAMINANT

  • MODEL IMPLEMENTATION

  • MODEL LIMITATIONS

  • THE BORDEN SITE FIELD EXPERIMENT

  • INVERSE CALCULATIONS WITH THE INSTANTANEOUS POINT SOURCE SOLUTION

  • NUMERICAL INTEGRATION IN STIFF PROBLEMS

  • FORWARD CALCULATION OF THE BORDEN PLUMES WITH THE DISTRIBUTED SLUG SOURCES

CHEMICAL FINGERPRINTING

  • CHEMICAL FINGERPRINTING TEST METHODS

  • FINGERPRINTING APPLICATIONS

  • REVIEW OF CHEMICAL FINGERPRINTING

  • EVALUATIONS

FORENSIC APPLICATIONS OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SCIENCES

  • CASE STUDIES

RISK ASSESSMENTS

  • DATA COLLECTION

  • DATA GAPS

  • EXPOSURE PATHWAYS

  • RECEPTORS EXPOSURE

  • TOXICITY CALCULATION OF RISK

  • RISK COMMUNICATION LITIGATION

WHY USE VISUALS

  • A PICTURE IS WORTH .....

  • DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE?

  • TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE

  • ONE FROM COLUMN A AND ONE FROM COLUMN B

  • VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE TWO TIN CANS AND A STRING

EVIDENCE ISSUES: GETTING EXPERT OPINIONS PAST THE JUDICIAL GATEKEEPER AND INTO EVIDENCE

  • HISTORY OF ADMISSIBILITY OF EXPERT TESTIMONY IN FEDERAL COURT

  • FRYE "GENERAL ACCEPTANCE" TEST

  • FEDERAL RULES OF EVIDENCE

  • DAUBERT RELEVANCE AND RELIABILITY

  • GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY V JOINER

  • KUMHO TIRE COMPANY V CARMICHAEL

  • EXPERT ENVIRONMENTAL TESTIMONY UNDER DAUBERT, JOINER, AND KUMHO

  • AN EXPERT SHOULD RELY ON MORE THAN "EXPERIENCE" IN REACHING A CONCLUSION

  • SCIENTIFIC METHODOLOGY MUST BE FOLLOWED

  • COURTS MAY OR MAY NOT RELY ON THE SPECIFIC FACTORS DESCRIBED IN DAUBERT

  • THE DAUBERT INQUIRY IS FLEXIBLE AND TIED TO THE SPECIFIC FACTS OF EACH PARTICULAR CASE

  • OPINIONS SHOULD NOT BE DEVELOPED SOLELY FOR PURPOSES OF TESTIFYING

  • A REVIEWING COURT MUST APPLY AN ABUSE OF DISCRETION STANDARD

  • EXPERT CONCLUSIONS BASED SOLELY ON SPECULATION AND POSSIBILITY ARE INSUFFICIENT

  • MOTIONS TO EXCLUDE EXPERT TESTIMONY PURSUANT TO DAUBERT

  • ADDITIONAL CHALLENGES TO EXPERT TESTIMONY

ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION TECHNIQUES

  • DESCRIPTION OF ADR METHODS HISTORICAL ROLE FOR ADR IN ENVIRONMENTAL

  • DISPUTE RESOLUTION TECHNICAL NEUTRALS IN ADR CASE STUDIES MANAGING THE PROCESS

FORENSIC CASE MANAGEMENT

  • TIMING IS EVERYTHING ELEMENTS OF FORENSIC CASE MANAGEMENT

ENVIRONMENTAL EXTORTION

  • A PROPERTY SALE GONE WRONG FILLING IN THE DATA GAPS EXPLAINING THE PIECES OF THE PUZZLE A DIFFERENCE OF OPINION: ROUND 2 DEFINING THE EXPERTS

  • THE MEDIATION SOLD AT LAST LESSONS LEARNED

  • A LESSON IN COMMUNICATIONS

  • AN OPPORTUNITY TO IMPROVE PROPERTY VALUES A "DYSFUNCTIONAL" MEDIATION A NEW BEGINNING AND A SHORT FUSE AN ABSENCE OF REGULATORY INPUT

  • DEVELOPING A MEDIATION STRATEGY THE FINAL MEDIATION THE SETTLEMENT LESSONS LEARNED

  • ALLOCATION, ALLOCATION, ALLOCATION

  • A POLLUTION-FREE INDUSTRY AND GROUNDWATER CONTAMINATION

  • THE INDUSTRIAL PARK INVESTIGATIONS ALLOCATION AMONG PARCELS

  • ALLOCATION AMONG PARCEL OCCUPANTS DECREASING REMEDIAL COSTS

  • LESSONS LEARNED

DEFLATING ENVIRONMENTAL COSTS

  • THE PARTIES AND THEIR PROBLEMS

  • THE FORENSIC INVESTIGATION

  • AN EXAGGERATED CLAIM

  • SETTLEMENT PREPARATION

  • THE FIRST SETTLEMENT MEETING

  • A MORE REALISTIC SETTLEMENT

  • LESSONS LEARNED

GUILT BY ASSOCIATION

  • THE HISTORY OF MANUFACTURED GAS IN GRASS HILLS COUNTY

  • THE COUNTY'S SITE INVESTIGATIONS

  • THE FORENSIC INVESTIGATION

  • AN ARCHEOLOGY INVESTIGATION

  • LESSONS LEARNED

AN ISSUE OF DISCLOSURE

  • CLAIM BACKGROUND

  • THE LITIGATION

  • SETTLEMENT NEGOTIATIONS

  • LESSON LEARNED

SETTLING A CLAIM

  • A SMALL FAMILY BUSINESS

  • AN ATTEMPTED SETTLEMENT

  • AN INSURANCE CLAIM LESSONS LEARNED

A COST OF DOING BUSINESS

  • SOLID WASTE DISPOSAL

  • THE CITY'S HISTORY OF SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT

  • THE FORENSIC INVESTIGATION A SETTLEMENT MEETING LESSONS LEARNED

A SUDDEN AND ACCIDENTAL EVENT

  • BACKGROUND TO A PROPERTY SALE GROUNDWATER REMEDIATION: PHASE I LAWSUIT

  • GROUNDWATER REMEDIATION: PHASE II THE INSURANCE LITIGATION LESSONS LEARNED

AN ACT OF GOD

  • SITE HISTORY A CGL INSURANCE CLAIM AN OPPOSING OPINION DEPOSITIONS LESSONS LEARNED

ENVIRONMENTAL FORENSICS POSITION PAPERS

Published materials detailing various components of a case involving environmental forensics will be given as an assigned reading. Because cases take place within a certain societal setting, in addition to the environmental and forensics-related factors, the case may involve other issues such as history and culture. Students are expected to dissect the elements involved in the case and express their opinion regarding the reported incident(s), response(s) of various actors, and the resolution or final outcome. The position paper is designed to be a platform for students to state whether or not they thought that events reported in the case resulted in "fair" and "reasonable" conclusions. If the conclusions are deemed or viewed as unfair or unreasonable, students are expected to detail how they thought better conclusions could be reached and what these conclusions could have been. Opinions articulated in this 2- to 3-page position paper must be presented in a logical and sensible fashion. The arguments students make must be based on a thorough analysis of the incident(s) that the assigned article contains. This will achieve several goals: evaluation of the evidence and its quality, conducting of analysis that leads to rational conclusions, and development of professional writing skills to produce a report-like paper that closely matches industry standards. After grading the paper, the instructor will summarize expressed students positions and report it to the class. This will be followed by an open forum in which all facts relevant to the case will be presented, discussed, analyzed, debated, and examined in the classroom. The first and second position papers are due in the 4th and 7th week, respectively.

ENVIRONMENTAL FORENSICS STAKEHOLDER MEETING

A stakeholder meeting will be held for the students in this course in which the class will be divided to groups of students and various roles will be given to each group. On the day of the meeting, every group will be given the opportunity to offer their view of the case under consideration. Arguments and counter arguments will be allowed in a professional setting facilitated by course instructor. Various groups will be asked to respond to what they deem as flaws in the position of others and correct, or at least shed light, on what they perceive as erroneous analysis. This meeting constitutes a component of class participation.

ENVIRONMENTAL FORENSICS TERM PAPER

The final term paper is a research paper with a scope wider than that addressed in position papers. Having developed an organized process of thought in the short position papers completed during the term, each student will be asked to do the same task on a complex case with many interwoven parameters that cannot be easily dissected. In this kind of exercise students will get exposure to real-world scenarios and get to sense the frustration that these types of cases usually generate due to the inability to easily define right and wrong. Students will present their paper to the class in the last week of the term and be prepared to answer questions from the instructor as well as from their peers.

 The term paper in this course should be thought provoking in addressing an issue related to environmental forensics. Define the issue, indicate its relevance, show why it matters, state its impact and dimensions, and help the reader appreciate the elegance of your arguments

Paper Subject

Resources

Submittals

Papers should be a Word document or PDF. There is no minimum or maximum page limit for papers. In addition to the text, students may wish to supplement their papers with proper photos, pictures, tables, graphs, charts, and figures. Supplementing materials must be referenced at least once in the text of the paper.

Paper Grading Criteria

Students taking this course will receive Engineering/Technology/Society (ETS) credit. Classroom presentations and discussion will promote critical thinking to enable students to evaluate evidence, results, and claims related to the natural sciences/engineering/technology and their impact on broader human or societal issues. In their written paper and in their oral presentation, students are expected to highlight and detail principles similar to those listed above. The grade in this term paper will be assigned based on the quality and depth of thought, organization, and relevance of content to the subject under consideration, understanding, clarity of presentation, and demonstration of ability to address questions with comprehension.

STUDENTS TAKE AWAY

  1. Students will develop an understanding that pollution, contamination, and waste disposal problems have very serious consequences on the lives of humans as well as all living creatures.
  2. Students will develop a fresh perspective regarding rules, laws, specifications, and regulations that control and govern the activities that may harm the environment.
  3. Students will appreciate the inherent value in the scientific approach to do analysis and reach conclusions. Recent scientific advances will revolutionize the field of environmental forensics.

SUGGESTED REFERENCE (a source for more information)

Murphy, B.L. and Morrison, R.D. (2007). “Introduction to Environmental Forensics,” 2nd, edition, Academic Press (ISBN-10: 0123695228)

ASTM STANDARD SPECIFICATIONS


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