Expert in Groundwater Contamination, David Ahlfeld, Joins UMass Amherst Faculty

AMHERST, Mass. - An expert in groundwater contamination, David Ahlfeld has joined the civil and environmental engineering department at the University of Massachusetts. He has extensive experience in dealing with industrial sites where contaminants seeped into the soil and polluted groundwater. Two high-profile cases he has been involved in include the San Fernando Valley clean-up in California, and the former Beatrice Foods and W.R. Grace & Co., site in Woburn, the focus of the court case depicted in "A Civil Action," a best-selling book by Jonathan Harr. The book is expected to be released as a movie in the coming months.

Ahlfeld worked on the Woburn site from about 1985-88, serving as a technical consultant to the plaintiffs in the lawsuit made famous in "A Civil Action," he said. He later used groundwater contamination data from the site in a case study for his research into methods for groundwater remediation. He noted that many scientists and engineers worked at the site, including those from the U.S. Geological Survey and federal and state environmental agencies.

Ahlfeld’s most recent work has led to the creation of software which will help engineers to design systems to clean or contain contaminated sites. The software will be available on the World Wide Web within the next few months, he said. A native of New Jersey, Ahlfeld did his undergraduate work at Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif. His earned his master’s and doctoral degrees at Princeton University, N.J., and joined UMass following 10 years on the faculty of the University of Connecticut at Storrs.

"David brings expertise in the area of water resources engineering to the environmental engineering program and greatly complements our expertise in the areas of water supply, drinking water treatment, and water pollution control, as well as hazardous waste management," said professor Michael Switzenbaum, coordinator of the environmental engineering program. The program, with eight faculty members, is part of the civil and environmental engineering department. It has been consistently ranked as one of the top programs in the United States, and was recently ranked seventh in the country by the Gourman Report, Switzenbaum said.