Northeastern Section - 49th Annual Meeting (2325 March)

Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 9:05 AM

WHEN APPLIED HYDROGEOLOGY, FIDUCIARY DUTY AND PROFESSIONAL ETHICS COLLIDE: ROLE OF THE CONSULTANT IN DEVELOPER-FUNDED PUBLIC GROUNDWATER SUPPLY PROJECTS IN BEDROCK TERRAIN


EISNER, Mark, Advanced Land and Water, Inc, 7540 Main Street, Suite 7, Sykesville, MD 21784, meisner@alwi.com

Major groundwater supply development projects in bedrock cause complex aquifer responses that are difficult to predict. Conventional pumping tests and the associated, classical evaluation techniques may over-estimate well yields, under-estimate areal effects, and incur considerably more time, cost and scrutiny on the part of beneficiaries and approving authorities. While uncertainty is a scientific fact, little appreciation exists for less than impeccable facts given the irrevocable decisions that often hinge on such forecasts.

The science of anchoring a prediction of well performance, based on a short-duration pumping test performed under a single set of pumping rate and climatic circumstances is challenging on its own. Work of this nature typically is overprinted by non-scientific considerations such as economics and profit. Consider that many hydrogeologic evaluations are funded by land developers or others with finite funds and an economic stake in the outcome of the study. The long-term beneficiaries of the evaluation, conversely, often are local governments or utilities with interests and motivations wholly different and frequently at odds with those of the hydrogeologist’s client.

Land development projects sometimes are politically controversial. Opponents may voice environmental, conservationist or resource protection concerns. Whether or not such concerns have scientific merit, their articulation and advancement can further complicate water resource decisions and approvals. Increasingly, consulting hydrogeologists find themselves at the uncomfortable and challenging crossroad of science, land use politics, fiduciary duty, contractual obligations and professional ethics.

Using recent projects in southern Pennsylvania and northern Maryland as case histories, this presentation will focus on such challenges and offer recommendations for the proper design, execution and presentation of hydrogeologic work of this nature.