A Civil Action - The Woburn Toxic Trial > Key Issues in the Trial

KEY ISSUES IN THE TRIAL


The links to resources presented in this webpage facilitate exploration of Key Issues raised in the Woburn Toxic Trial that were woven into the book and movie "A Civil Action." These issues concern Woburn's industrial history and water supply system, the health studies about disease clusters in Woburn, Judge Skinner's controversial rulings, and the disparate opinions expressed by expert witnesses during the trial. Links are provided to resources in the two other levels of exploration within this website, Overarching Societal Issues and Learning Modules, and to the Resource Collections. The Key Issues in the Woburn Toxic Trial explored on this page include:

[link #Industrial History 'Industrial History'] | [link #Water Supply 'Water Supply'] | [link #Health Issues 'Health Studies'] | s Rulings 'Judge's Rulings | Experts



A view of the IndustriPlex location in the early 1900s

Woburn's Industrial History

  • Woburn's 250-year industrial history and its possible contribution to pollutants in the Aberjona River watershed and wells G and H.
  • Chemical industry and pesticide manufacturing in Woburn
  • IndustriPlex Superfund Site, the other Superfund site in Woburn
  • Leather tanning and its long history in Woburn
  • Degradation of the Aberjona River watershed
  • [link #Industrial History 'Industrial History'] | [link #Water Supply 'Water Supply'] | [link #Health Issues 'Health Studies'] | s Rulings 'Judge's Rulings | Experts | Top


    A map of Woburn's drinking water districts

    Woburn's Municipal Water Supply

    Woburn's water-supply system has a long legacy of inadequate supply and poor water quality. Explore the webpages below to learn how this legacy led to the construction and use of municipal wells G and H.

  • Horn Pond: the start of Woburn's water problems
  • Construction and use of municipal wells G and H
  • Woburn's water-supply and water-distribution systems
  • [link #Industrial History 'Industrial History'] | [link #Water Supply 'Water Supply'] | [link #Health Issues 'Health Studies'] | s Rulings 'Judge's Rulings | Experts | Top



    State & Federal Health Studies

    Several studies were performed to identify specific human-health problems and possible exposure pathways in Woburn. Prior to the trial, medical experts were hired to identify links between chronic exposure to concentrations of trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE). Learn more about the health studies conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and the Harvard School of Public Health, and about the toxicity of TCE and PCE using these webpages.

  • Woburn health studies
  • TCE and PCE: toxicity, uses, and properties
  • [link #Industrial History 'Industrial History'] | [link #Water Supply 'Water Supply'] | [link #Health Issues 'Health Studies'] | s Rulings 'Judge's Rulings | Experts | Top


    Judge Skinner, who presided over the Woburn Toxic Trial

    Judge Skinner's Controversial Rulings

    Judge Skinner made several rulings concerning how the trial proceeded, who qualified as an expert, and what evidence was presented. Lawyers found the rulings controversial. Scientists found the rulings inhibited information given to the jury. Learn more about trial processes and the legal foundations of Judge Skinner's rulings using these webpages.

  • Overview of trial processes and procedures
  • Chronology of events in the Woburn Toxic Trial
  • Judge Skinner's controversial rulings
  • [link #Industrial History 'Industrial History'] | [link #Water Supply 'Water Supply'] | [link #Health Issues 'Health Studies'] | s Rulings 'Judge's Rulings | Experts | Top



    The witness stand in the federal courthouse in Boston

    Scientists in the Courtroom

    One of the intriguing aspects of the experts' testimony presented in the trial was the gross disparity of their opinions. Learn more about the depth and details of these differences below.

  • Why are there so many expert witnesses?
  • If experts share common data, why are their opinions so uncommon?
  • Confusion over the Aberjona River: is it a source or a sink?
  • How can TCE arrival times at wells G and H be so different?
  • What were the technological limitations of the 1986 trial?
  • [link #Industrial History 'Industrial History'] | [link #Water Supply 'Water Supply'] | [link #Health Issues 'Health Studies'] | s Rulings 'Judge's Rulings | Experts | Top


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