After two weeks of testimony Wolfeboro is finally rolling out their real case. Yesterday they brought out Prof. Jean Benoit from UNH. In his direct examination, he basically said that Wright Pierce did a bad job and that the entire RIB site is now useless. Unfortunately, I missed his cross examination in the afternoon so I have no idea how well his testimony held up.
As an academic who isn’t a Professional Engineer, Wright Pierce objected to his testimony but was overruled. It was pretty clear that he is out of touch with the reality of the situation as he talked about how the system should have been started up at 100,000 gallons per day and gradually increased by 100,000 gpd over a long period while collecting lots of data and comparing to the model. Wright Pierce couldn’t even get the town to keep it to the design 600,000gpd.
But all that aside, he was a credible expert and his explanations of the soil conditions and slope issues hit the mark. He is a geotechnical engineer, but he was allowed to give his expert testimony about hydrogeology and modeling.
Today, Christopher Cullen of Fuss & O’Neill took the stand. He is very credible geotechnical engineer with a pretty broad range of experience. His testimony was straightforward and very credible. He went over the slope failure and other issues at the site, and detailed the things he felt should have been “red flags” for WP. At the conclusion, he said the words: WP did not provide the required standard of care.
At the heart of the testimony from both Prof Benoit and Mr. Cullen were the calculations made by SW Cole in 2011 report that the town used to renew the Groundwater Discharge Permit. That report does does what the experts call a simple “”Darcy’s Law” analysis of a cross section of slope. This calculation says that the cross sectional area can only support 340,000 gpd annual average with seasonal variation. Nobody seems to be saying it’s not a valid way to look at it, and only seem to be arguing the dimensions of the cross section.
On cross-examination, WP made a point of demonstrating that they felt he overstepped his area of expertise by saying that WP had breached it’s standard of care as Prime Wastewater Engineers. They argued that the information he referenced from the SW Cole 2011 report was overly conservative, which drew the sharpest response yet from Ms. Cull on redirect.
WP challenged his reasons for stating that the site cannot be repaired. That was a curious exchange. He agreed that two of the three conditions for remediation, slope stabilization and monitoring of recharge quality, were achievable.
Mr. Cullen had said that the last issue of dealing with the breakout water is easy when dealing with ordinary water as with a dam because the water can be collected in a toe-drain and just discharged anywhere because it’s clean water. The problem here is that the breakout is still considered wastewater and most be re-introduced to the ground. WP’s attorney then asked if a disposal facility could be built on the adjacent Wolfe 1-B site that was passed over by the town because Wolfe 1-A was believed to have more capacity. He said he did not know. This is the first and probably not the last we will hear about it. I have to wonder if this is an idea that has been discussed with Wolfeboro.
At the end of the day, the last Fuss & O’Neill expert, Robert Bowdon, took the stand. This fellow is a Hydrogeologist that runs a team at Fuss & O’Neill that primarily evaluates hazardous waste contamination. Wright Pierce objected vigorously to his designation as an expert to render an opinion as to the standard of care for a Prime Wastewater Engineer. Acording to their objection, the fellow is not a Professional Engineer and doesn’t have any wastewater experience.
At this point, I am totally confused as to the applicable standard for qualifying experts and allowing them to render their opinions. I thought I had it pretty well understood after reading the order granting wolfeboro motion to limit testimony of three experts against Wright Pierce’s experts rendering opinions outside their disciplines, but this doesn’t seem to be the same standard at all. Maybe when it’s all over, somebody will explain it to me.