Environmental Contamination Cases (Examples)

California - A new owner purchased a property from a trucking company that had used underground storage tanks to contain diesel fuel. The new owner converted the tanks to gasoline use. Ten years after the sale the tanks were removed a plume of gasoline was found penetrating to over 90 ft. in depth. Laboratory analysis showed traces of diesel fuel in one sample and the new owner sued the former owner over faulty installation of the tanks, which allegedly caused the contamination.

Through modeling of the plume dynamics, TCT was able to show that the gasoline release came from a single catastrophic spill that occurred at about the time the tanks were removed (one tank had not been emptied and when lifted it had ruptured, spilling its contents into the gravel layer below the tank). TCT was also able to show that the diesel fuel found in the early sampling was fresh diesel due to laboratory contamination (fingerprints matched the laboratory standard) and was not a residual from the trucking operation as alleged. The trucking company was able to settle with no liability for the contamination.

Utah - A filling station that had operated for more than 70 years was closed and the tanks were removed. Contamination, new and old, was found throughout the area. Several large pools of fuel were found down-gradient on the site of another filling station that had closed several years earlier. Apportionment of responsibility was complicated by the fact that there were numerous owners/operators of the first site and access to further investigation of the second site was belatedly obtained only after several years had passed since the original discovery of the gasoline pools.

TCT conducted fingerprinting, age determination, transport modeling and other tests to determine the probable history of the contamination. TCT opined that the contamination on the second site did not originate from the first site in spite of the conventional wisdom (downgradient proximity) to the contrary. The findings led to resolution among the most of the parties and provided a basis for the state regulators to apportion liability over the remaining parties. Not long after fresh gasoline was evidenced on the second site pointing to a third source, validating the original TCT model.

Utah - A family of two adults and several children had been living in a house with a gasoline smell for as long as any could remember. The family developed health problems that were alleged to derive from inhaling the gasoline. Several operating filling stations were located in the area and at least one other had operated in the past but had been subsequently closed. The potential liability over injuries was large and forensic evidence was needed to resolve the question of responsibility.

TCT conducted fingerprinting, age determination and plume dynamic modeling to identify the source of contamination. The evidence from the plume modeling pointed to a particular source and was strong enough that the insurance company for the responsible party accepted TCT's findings and settled with the injured parties.


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