Posted April 29, 2009

Expert in famous water contamination case to speak at Western

London - A graduate of The University of Western Ontario, who was an expert witness in a complex U.S. legal case involving water contamination, alleged to have caused cancer in children, will return to his alma mater on Friday, May 1 as part of the Faculty of Engineering’s Distinguished Lecture Series.

The novel, A Civil Action, written by Jonathan Harr and the 1998 film adaptation starring John Travolta, were based on the case. In the film, Pinder was portrayed by British actor Stephen Fry.

Pinder (BSc’65) is director of the Research Centre for Groundwater Remediation Design at the University of Vermont.

His presentation, Groundwater Contamination Litigation at Woburn Massachusetts: My Role as an Expert Witness, will focus on the Massachusetts Federal Court case initiated by several families who believed their children contracted leukemia because of contaminated groundwater.

At the heart of the case was an allegation that contaminants migrated to two public supply wells and from there to the water supplying their homes and that these contaminants caused the leukemia.

Expert witnesses on opposing sides disagreed on the behaviour of the groundwater system. Groundwater models and field experiments were employed. Still, the jury was asked to decide based upon these conflicting opinions.

The resulting decision highlighted the challenges faced by laypersons in understanding abstract scientific evidence.

Pinder also served as a professional witness for the highly publicized Love Canal court case.

The lecture, sponsored by Western’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is scheduled for Friday, May 1 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Room 2202, Spencer Engineering Building.

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