Crime Scene Investigation

Scenario:

The Case of the Illegal Dumpsite  

        John Smith had worked for the same company in the shipping and receiving department for 15 years.  John was proud of his attendance record, and even though he wasn't always giving his job 100%, he believed he was doing a good job.  Everyone goofs off at work part of the time, don't they?

        One morning when John arrived at work, he stopped at the bulletin board where new job listings were posted.  One of the postings was for a supervisor position in a department in which he had always wanted to work.  The pay was a nice increase too, and with the extra money, he could have his truck with the new tires and rims customized.  That night John filled out the necessary papers for the job and hurriedly turned them in the next day.

        Weeks later, he and all the other employees that had applied, were called in for an interview.  John just knew that he would land the job.  However, when the person to fill the position was announced a few weeks later, another employee that had worked less time than John got the job.  John was furious at being overlooked!  That night when John clocked out and was getting into his car in the parking lot, he said, "I'll get even with them for this."

        Tony Harris loved the outdoors and he loved photography, so many years ago when he relocated his family to a wetland area near a major river, he put his two "loves" together and started doing outdoor photography.  Some of Tony's photographs had even been published in several naturalist journals.  Tony was very familiar with the wetland area and the wildlife because he spent most of his free time photographing there.

        Tony had set out very early on a cool, crisp morning to spend the weekend camping and taking pictures at his favorite wetland area.  Tony was excited about his trip and the great pictures he expected to get so when he came across the cove with its terrible stench, Tony was unprepared for what he found.  In a tree-surrounded cove of the river, Tony found several dead waterfowl and turtles that had washed ashore.  When he examined them, there weren't any markings to show injuries, and the animals appeared to have been healthy when they died.  Tony took several pictures of the area and the dead animals and decided to call the Game and Fish Commission when he returned home.

        A new hunting season had opened and with it came lots of calls about pouching problems and hunting accidents.  Chelsea Brown had worked for the Game and Fish for several years since her graduation from college.  She had been raised to love animals and the environment so this job was great for her.  Today she was spending time in the office to catch up on some reports and to answer the hotline.  She was in a very relaxed mood when the phone hotline rang, and she took a call from a Mr. Tony Harris.  She remembered Mr. Harris from an awards banquet when the Game and Fish Commission gave Tony an award for some of his outstanding waterfowl photographs that they had published in their G & F magazine.

        Tony reported the incident with the dead waterfowl and turtles he had witnessed in the cove and said he would send the photographs of the area and the dead animals to the Game and Fish.  Chelsea thanked Mr. Harris and told him she would make a report.  The call didn't seem to be too serious to Chelsea at the time.  However, when Chelsea went to the G & F logbook to register the incident, she found numerous other reports called in from other hunters and campers stating that they had noticed a lot of unexplained deaths in the waterfowl and turtle populations in this area of the wetlands.  This couldn't be ignored.  Chelsea said, "Guess we better get some people out there to check on this."

        When the Game and Fish officers traveled to the wetlands, they found more than just dead wildlife.  The scene they discovered might be the cause of the reported deaths of wildlife in this aquatic habitat.  Near the area of several of the reported hotline sightings, the officers found a large amount of industrial waste that had been dumped.  The waste included large piles of discarded plastics, metals, and wood.  A first inspection of the wastes didn't give the officers a clue  where the trash came from or who had left it there.  However, there were several deep tire tracks and shoe prints from a man's athletic shoe in places where the ground had been extremely wet at one time.  Like many areas of the wetlands with clay-based soils, when the water had receded from this area, the tracks and the ground dried hard like cement.

        There was a possibility that the waste could have a negative effect on the environment and the animals in the area.  The EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, would have to be called to help identify the unknown plastics, metals, etc. and to determine if they were or were not hazardous.  The officers closed off the area and the investigation began!  

STUDENT ROLE  

        As a student, you will be a scientist on the team that the EPA sent to the wetland area to study the dump site and its effect.  You will work along with the people from the Game and Fish to solve three problems ---

1.      What type of plastics and metal are dumped at the site?

2.    Could any of the plastics or metals cause death like the waterfowl and turtles?

3.    Who is responsible for the illegal dumping and subsequent clean-up and damages?  

EXTENSION:

Devise a plan for a safe method of disposal for the trash found at the dump site? and an estimated cost for removal and damages.

Evidence:

Plastics, metals, tire tracks, shoe prints

Teacher Preparation:

ACTIVITY # 1 - Identifying Plastics

Handout - Industrial Park

References:

Plastic Recycling Codes

Plastic Identification Tests

Plastics Tests

Types of Plastics PowerPoint 

Toxic Plastics --- Fact or Myth?  PowerPoint

ACTIVITY # 2 - Identifying Metals

References:

Metals Color test

Metal Identification

Metal Properties 

ACTIVITY # 3 - Shoe Print & Tire Tread Patterns

Shoe Size versus Height Chart 

Sneaker Patterns 

Tire Treads

If the Shoe Fits  PowerPoint

Handout - Shoe Imprint from Dumpsite

Handout - Tire Tread Pattern from Dumpsite

Lab Investigations:

ACTIVITY #1 - Plastics Identification

ACTIVITY #2 - Metals Identification

ACTIVITY #3 - Shoe Pattern & Tire Track Identification

All Materials Cmassengale