Geoscience Licensing: Ethics Protects the Public

I recently served as an expert witness for a case that hinged upon classification of an aquifer. This determination was key to establishing the clean up goals for the site. The other party presented tests and data that were obviously biased toward a no clean up option. No clean up also meant the public would be exposed to the contaminants. Other testing demonstrated a much different classification for the aquifer, and a more stringent clean up level for the public to be protected. The other “expert” was not licensed in the State and therefore not bound by the ethical standards of a licensed individual. I believe the public was ultimately protected by an unbiased assessment by an ethical licensed geoscientist.


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    ok 2 geologists apparrently being paid by 2 different sides of a legal dispute disagreed over interpretation of data, one licensed and one not. Both would have taken an oath to tell the truth I imagine and would be committing perjury if they lied. The licensed one claims that he is more ethical in his interpretation than the other because of his license. We don't know which interpretation of the data was more accurate but since the licensed one argued in favor of a more extensive environmental cleanup, he is represented as being the ethical good expert. The unlicensed one who probably argued that, according to regulations in place that are designed to focus remediation efforts on conditions that pose an unnacceptable level of risk etc, the site did not warrant as extensive of a remediation effort is represented as being the bad expert, unethical. Implied that if the bad expert had a license he would not have defended the polluter in this way. Its also possible though that the bad expert's testimony was more accurate and the good expert used the license that the State gave him to give credibility to his misinterpretation; one which would potentially wind up costing some entity millions of dollars to attempt to remediate groundwater that may not be otherwise fit for use anyway etc. Limited resources that perhaps could have been spent more effectively to reduce a higher priority risk, maybe updated air emissions control equipment needed at the same plant. Just because one expert's conclusion was to require more extensive cleanup doesn't make him the more ethical one. I don't know anything about the case mentioned but don't agree with the implied premise that an expert that argues for more extensive environmental cleanup is necessarily the more ethical one or that those ethics were due to having a license. There are technological limitations, there are laboratory detection limits available now descending down into the parts per trillion but that doesn't mean it is practical to remediate it all just because we can see it, there are risk priotization factors etc.

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    YOu've got too many hypotheticals involved to comment on. I will say that a person practicing geology in the public sector in Texas is supposed to be licensed in the State of Texas. Once licensed, you have a code of ethics to abide by, which includes recommending lower cost solutions if possible. Also, the TCEQ and EPA really don't want excuses or for you to decide between a groundwater or air cleanup. You've got to do both at the same time, in a reasonable amount of time. They don't care what it'll cost you.