wasn't in danger,
expert tells court
By WILLIAM FOX
L Pets.eubw THMn.. fstwff WN
What Pinellas County calls a
hazardous threat to its water sup-
ply is "absolutely innocuous as
concerns water pollution," an ex-
pert testified Friday.
"It's unfortunate that Pinellas
County taxpayers' money was
spent on a case lacking a real
health threat when it could have
been spent on a real environmental
threat," said Jay H. Lehr, execu-
tive director of the National Water
Lehr was the last defense wit-
ness in the county's lawsuit against
three Hillsborough County
brothers who own two former
landfills less than a half mile from
the Eldridge-Wilde well field, the
source of half the county's drinking
The county contends that the
brothers, William, Charles and
James "Bobby" Martin, allowed
dangerous chemicals to be dumped
in the borrow pits, chemicals that
have seeped underground into the
well field's water table. Pinellas is
seeking more than $3.5-million in
damages to recover the costs it
says it spent to clean up the two
Lehr's testimony took most of
Friday, and then the county
brought back one of its expert
witnesses to rebut Lehr.
Lehr likened the case to the
story of the little boy who cried
wolf, saying that if alarms were
raised over such landfills then the
public might become complacent if
a real environmental problem were
to be uncovered.
He said material found in the
borroww pits was characteristic of
typicall construction debris and
that more likely sources of pollu-
tion were nearby septic tanks,
sewage sludge spread by the coun-
ty and agricultural chemicals.
"Septic tanks are the most fre-
quent source of ground-water con-
in damages to
costs it says it
spent to clean up
the two pits.
tamination in the United States,"
Substances detected in the ar-
ea "are all part of normal domestic
chemicals that people flush down
the toilet or pour down the sink."
After reviewing results of tests
conducted by the county of soil and
water samples over the last four
years, Lehr said, his conclusion
was "for the most part that little or
nothing has been found."
The county's attorneys
brought back Robert L. Powell, a
scientist with Environ Corp. in
Washington, who had testified ear-
lier in the case.
Powell challenged Lehr's anal-
ysis of the geology of the well field
area and said Lehr was wrong in
his assessment of the direction of
underground water flow.
If a home's septic tank was a
source of a chemical contaminant,
Powell testified, then that contami-
nant ought to be found in the
home's water well and none
was, he said.
"I find (Lehr's) argument
about septic tanks to be completely
without merit in this case," Powell
As for sewage sludge, Powell
said, "There is no data to suggest
that sewage sludge is the source of
pollution in the well field."
Final arguments in the nonjury
trial are to be heard today. Circuit
Judge Fred L. Bryson Jr. said he
expects to issue his decision next