192 Engineering Ethics: An Industrial Perspective
WHY DID YOUR COMPANY DO THE RIGHT THING?
David Packard was a strong leader who governed well and fairly. He
could not have reacted in any other way.
WERE COMPANIES MORE ETHICAL IN THE 1970S THAN
THEY ARE NOW
?
My experience is that employees emulate the behavior of their execu-
tive management. Peer pressure caused you to do the right thing. So I
believe that time is not a factor. However, I do have to admit that the
times could shape employee behavior. Back then, the majority of the
stock (over 90%) belonged to founders William Hewlett and David
Packard. There was no pressure to increase financials every quarter as
there is now.
CASE 4: GEOLOGIC ENGINEER
Ethics Dilemma Scorecard
Public Safety & Welfare
Data Integrity & Representation
Trade Secrets & Industrial Espionage
Gift Giving & Bribery
Principle of Informed Consent
Conflict of Interest
Accountability to Clients & Customers
Fair Treatment
TELL US YOUR STORY
During the 1980s, an elementary school was evacuated after a gaso-
line leak was discovered. Over 400 children were moved to alternative
classrooms for several months after explosive levels of vapors were
detected by the local fire department. While state officials believed that
gas from a nearby storage facility tank seeped into the groundwater, the
owner of the storage facility, based on tests conducted by its consultant,
indicated that a gasoline station in the area could be the source of the
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Anonymous Industrial Engineering Ethics Cases 193
spill. In its report, the hired consulting firm showed a map that did
not indicate hydrocarbon concentrations were present in the area of
the tank, even though monitor wells showed concentrations in this area.
The tank was located about 600 feet north of the school, with a water-
table elevation 8 feet higher than the water-table elevation of the
school. The gasoline station was located about 200 feet west of the
school, with a water-table elevation 2 feet higher than the water-table
elevation of the school. In both consultant and state reports, groundwa-
ter was noted to flow downgradient from the tank toward the school.
I was hired by the state to simulate groundwater contaminant move-
ment in the school area with a U.S. Geological Survey two-dimensional
solute transport model widely used in groundwater contamination stud-
ies. Even before conducting this analysis, I had reviewed all the data
acquired, and I agreed with my colleagues that the leaking tank was the
most likely source of contamination that caused the closing of the
school.
The assumptions I used as inputs to the model were based on real
world conditions. Model analysis indicated that contamination leaking
from the tank could have migrated to near the southern end of the
school within about 16 months. In fact, about 16 months after the
assumed time for the leak, contamination was first detected in monitor-
ing wells just south of the school. My analysis implicated the tank, rather
than the gasoline station, as the source of contamination, and was
included in the state’s report. Both reports from the state and the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency concluded that the tank was the
source of contamination.
Eventually, after meeting with the governor of the state, the tank owner
accepted responsibility, and cleaned up about 20,000 gallons of unleaded
gasoline floating on top of shallow groundwater below the ground.
Cleanup was expected to take more than 20 years. The owner also agreed
to pay the costs for building a new school and for moving students to alter-
native classrooms until the building was completed. After a second con-
sulting firm independently reviewed the work of the first consulting firm,
the first firm lost its contract with the tank owner.
LOOKING BACK, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE
DIFFERENTLY
?
Nothing. The state asked me to conduct a groundwater analysis, which I
conducted to the best of my ability.
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