THE TAMPA TRIBUNE, Saturday, November 15,1986 5-B
Scientist says it's improbable
borrow pits polluted well fields
Hydrology expert Jay
Lehr testified the
borrow pits are not a
public health threat.
By RICHARD DANIELSON
Tribune Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG The same
expert who called Love Canal an en-
vironmental "boogeyman" said
Friday it's "virtually Inconceivable"
that the Martin brothers' borrow pits
polluted a major well field.
"It is so unfortunate that Pinellas
County has spent so much money on
a case lacking a real health threat,"
said Jay H. Lehr, an international
authority on hydrology.
"It is virtually Inconceivable to
me that the nature of this pit, its
location, and the materials in It
could pose a toxic threat," Lehr said.
Lehr testified Friday on behalf
of Charlie, Bobby and Billy Martin,
who are being sued by Pinellas
County for the expenses of cleaning
construction debris and other refuse
out of their borrow pits in the Key-
Lehr whose hobbies include
parachuting and competing in "iron
man" contests was perhaps the
most self-assured of the dozens of
witnesses who have testified in the
One arm slung over the back of
his chair, Lehr lounged In the wit-
ness stand as if it were his living
room. For his court appearance, he
wore a dark three-piece suit, a white
shirt open at the collar with no tie
and black Hike referees' shoes.
Lehr's confidence carried over
to his answers to probing questions
from John Allen, Pinellas County's
Asked whether he was uncom-
fortable because the Martins were
running an illegal, unregulated land-
fill, Lehr turned the question against
"Not nearly as uncomfortable as
I was at learning that the taxpayers
had spent millions of dollars chasing
a public health threat that was rela-
tively innocuous," he responded.
Pinellas County spent $3.5 mil-
lion to excavate the pits on the as-
sumption that toxic chemicals were
seeping out of the trash into the
ground water. The county said con-
taminants were leaking across the
county line into the Eldridge-Wilde
well field, the source of drinking
water for 600,000 Plnellas residents.
Lehr, however, theorized that
the cleanup may have contributed to
the problem. He said pumping water
out of one of the borrow pits could
have sucked polluted water from
other sources through the ground-
water system and into test wells.
"When I see 60 to 70 septic tanks
In that small an area and I see pollu-
tants showing up In the wells, there
is no way I could not suspect those
as a source," he said.
He said some of the contami-
nants could have come from 127 mil-
lion gallons of "sludge" a by-
product of sewage treatment plants
that Pinellas County sprayed on
nearby property over several years.
Lehr has established a respected,
if sometimes controversial, reputa-
tion as an authority on ground water.
He serves as executive director
of the National Water Well Assocla
tion, edits three magazines on th
subject and was once recruited
testify for Pinellas County agans4
He also has written articles sug
testing that environmentalists ex'
plot situations for political ends.
With regard to Love Canal an
infamous toxic waste site in Niagra
Falls, N.Y. he said some environ'y-
mentalists created a "boogeyman"
when no real link had been esta
lished between the wastes dumped
and cancer rates in surrounding
On Love Canal and the Martins'
borrow pits, Lehr was opposed
Friday by another expert, Robert
Powell, a nationally known environ-
mental scientist from Washington,
Powell, who worked on the Love
Canal cleanup, said Lehr raised
some good points, but "I think Dr.
Lehr's characterization was some-
When it came to the effect of
pumping water out of the borrow
pits, Powell said, "I think Dr. Lehr'sl
opinion Is interesting, but I don't'
think its borne out by the full body
Lawyers for both sides have now
finished presenting evidence and
are scheduled to give closing argu-
ments today. Although Circuit Court
Judge Fred Bryson could render a
verdict today, he's not expected to
rule until next week.