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SDocuments show a consultant was a ter
ordered oy an attorney iur ruineas o
find little impact on whether ground
water pumping harms lakes and
By JEAN HELLER
Tinte Staff Writ
CLEARWATER A consultant hired to de-
termine whether ground water pumping harms
lakes and wetlands has worked for 10 years under
explicit instructions from a high-profilegovern-
ment-paid lawyer to conclude the effects are
Documents introduced at a legal hearing Mon-
day show that Tampa lawyer Ed de la Parte issued
those orders as early as April 1986, when he was
representing Tampa Bay's largest water utility,
the West Coast Regional Water Supply Authority.
In a letter to the consultant, Richard Callahan
Jr. of Biological Research Associates Inc. in Tam-
pa, de la Parte reiterated a conversation in which
Callahan is said to have agreed to study- the
environmental effects of water withdrawals from
the Cross Bar well field in northern Pasco County.
"Your report must show that the water table
impact will not significantly and adversely effect
(sic) vegetation outside well field boundaries," de
la Parte wrote.
The lawyer reiterated the order in July 1995,
by which time he was representing Pinellas Coun-
ty and on his way to collecting the $2.4-million in
legal fees he has been paid since taking that job in
In a document that outlines the duties to be
performed by Biological Research and a second
consultant, de la Parte wrote:
On Aug. 5, and again on Aug. 7, 1995, Biologi-
cal Research should be "proving that well field
withdrawals are not the primary cause of the
Ed de la Parte
legal fees from
environmental impacts taking place in the NTB
(Northern Tampa Bay) area immediately prior to June
The date is important, because it marks the begin-
ning of emergency pumping cutbacks ordered by the
Southwest Florida Water Management Agency, or
Swiftmud, because of extremely low water levels in
the Floridan Aquifer and the drying up of lakes and
wetlands as the aquifer level fell.
The documents could undermine the credibility of
conclusions drawn by the consultant, which closely
followed the parameters outlined by de la Parte.
The documents were disclosed during a hearing
Monday on an attenipt by West Coast and the city of
St. Petersburg to overturn Swiftmud's denial of re-
newed pumping permits for four well fields.
The introduction of the document, which is marked
"confidential," clearly took de la Parte by surprise. He
objected, claiming it was privileged.
"We're not waiving the privilege," he told the
hearing officer. "We're asserting it at this time."
But John Wilcox, outside counsel for Swiftmud,
said the document was obtained in the course of
discovery, and the objection was overruled.
De la Parte made no further objection when Wilcox
introduced the document and had no further comment
on the matter.
But Dr. Shirley Denton of Biological Research
Associates, Pinellas County's final witness in the legal
action challenging Swiftmud's decision to deny permit
renewals for four well fields, denied ever seeing the de
la Parte documents or knowing of the attorney's
"I'm sure Mr. de la Parte and Pinellas County
would like it if that's what we were doing," Denton
said. "What we were doing was trying to find out what
was going on. I see the words... I know nothing about
But when Wilcox asked if the consulting firm gave
her instructions regarding her role in the study,
"Our role is to support our client's role in this
proceeding. That's the role of any consultant."
But, she added, "my conclusions would be my own
no matter what my instructions were."
Earlier, Wilcox attempted to throw the consul-
tant's conclusions into doubt by eliciting from Denton
the acknowledgement that many of the experts hired
to conduct the environmental surveys and rate the
conditions of wetlands were employees of West Coast.
"I assumed that the authority only hires qualified
people to monitor wetland health," she said.
Wilcox also noted that the survey forms were filled
with comments such as, "Cannot see if there is
water," "Can't see from fence," "Can't tell. Can't see
back of site," "Too difficult to evaluate without access
to site," "Not a fair test," and, "Difficult to rate from
Despite their difficulties, Wilcox noted, the survey-
ors rated the sites anyway.