A Civil Action - The Woburn Toxic Trial > Resource Collections > Aerial Photographs

Historical Aerial Photographs


Prior to the trial, Jan Schlichtmann, the plaintiffs attorney, hired a consulting firm to acquire and analyze historic aerial photographs of the Riley 15-acre property to estimate the times when the various drums, barrels, and debris piles first appeared. The consultants took this analysis and compared it to the 1985 field mapping of the debris piles, drums, and tanks on the 15-acre property by John Drobinski, a geologist hired by Schlichtmann. Drobinski's field map can be downloaded from the trial documents collection and excerpts of his deposition can be downloaded from the trial testimony collection.

What Are Aerial Photographs and How Are They Used?

Student using a stereoscope to view adjacent images in 3-D. The smaller 'pocket' stereoscope also works.

Aerial photographs like the ones shown below routinely are taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Geological Survey to make topographic maps, record temporal changes in crop patterns, map geology and mineral resources, and evaluate floodplains. A specialized aircraft with sophisticated cameras is used to take photographs using black & white or color infrared film. The aircraft flies along flight lines that overlap slightly while the camera takes photographs at time intervals that allow the images to overlap. Because of the overlap is from two different positions in the sky, the overlapping portions of adjacent images can be viewed in 3-D. A stereoscope is needed to see the images in 3-D, which produces a static visual image that is similar to looking at a 3-D movie using red and blue glasses. Thus, tree tops and buildings appear to be higher than surrounding ground, whereas stream channels and wetlands appear to be lower.

Aerial Photographs of the Woburn Wells G and H Area

The collection below is a subset of those compiled by Maura Metheny for her dissertation research at Ohio State University. Four sets of photographs (May 1954, May 1969, April 1981, and March 1986) are suitable for 3-D viewing. To do this, print the images on high-quality paper or photographic paper and view them under a stereoscope. An inexpensive plastic 'pocket' stereoscope works well. The sequence of images below document changes in land use, construction of municipal wells G and H and other structures, changes in the wetland, and the appearance of drums and underground storage tanks along the access road between Salem Street and Olympia Avenue on the west side of the river.

Detailed information about the dates, resolution, scales, and ordering numbers of the sets of aerial photographs shown below is available in this Excel file (Excel 19kB Jan22 07).













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