Peter has been working with the Bigness Oil Company’s local affiliate for several years, and he has established a strong, trusting relationship with Jesse, manager of the local facility.
The facility, on Peter’s recommendations, has followed all of the environmental regulations to the letter, and it has a solid reputation with the state regulatory agency. The local facility receives various petrochemical products via pipelines and tank trucks, and it blends them for resale to the private sector.
Jesse has been so pleased with Peter’s work that he has recommended that Peter be retained as the corporate consulting engineer. This would be a significant advancement for Peter and his consulting firm, cementing Peter’s steady and impressive rise in the firm. There is talk of a vice presidency in a few years.
One day, over coffee, Jesse starts telling Peter a story about a mysterious loss in one of the raw petrochemicals he receives by pipeline. Sometime during the 1950s, when operations were more lax, a loss of one of the process chemicals was discovered when the books were audited. There were apparently 10,000 gallons of the chemical missing. After running pressure tests on the pipelines, the plant manager found that one of the pipes had corroded and had been leaking the chemical into the ground. After stopping the leak, the company sank observation and sampling wells and found that the product was sitting in a vertical plume, slowly diffusing into a deep aquifer. Because there was no surface or groundwater pollution off the plant property, the plant manager decided to do nothing. Jesse thought that somewhere under the plant there still sits this plume, although the last tests from the sampling wells showed that the concentration of the chemical in the groundwater within 400 feet of the surface was essentially zero. The wells were capped, and the story never appeared in the press.
Peter is taken aback by this apparently innocent revelation. He