309 Waste Not

We don’t have one; we have seventeen cancer clusters …

Summary:  Don’s team investigates a construction company after a sinkhole develops at an elementary school

Original air date
: November 17, 2006 (US)

Written by
: Julie Herbert

Directed by
: J Miller Tobin

Opening numbers:

13: Million tons of hazardous waste
9.6: Billion dollars in fines
1244: Dispolsal sites
1: Sinkhole

Family Concepts: (character development)

  • Charlie has a new boss Mildred “Millie” Finch
  • Millie is the new division chair for Physics, Mathemathics and Astronomy
  • Amita is tenure track thanks to Millie
  • Amita wants to assist Millie with research and thinks having Millie as a mentor is a smart decision
  • Dr Finch wants Amita to serve on the curriculum committee
  • Dr Finch wants Charlie to chair the PhD admissions committee
  • Larry is living in the steam tunnels under CalSci.  He doesn’t want to be a burden on anyone due to a need to use a bathtub for thinking.
  • Dr Finch is a fan of James Bond movies.

Episode Quotes:

  • Larry: Change is inevitable and those who adapt most quickly are the most likely to survive.
  • Charlie: Yes, I’m so generous.

Episode Synopsis:

A parent doing a good deed for his child’s school inadvertently creates a sinkhole in the school playground trapping several students and a teacher.  The FBI is handed the case when AUSA Howard Meeks asks the FBI to investigate the construction company as part of his larger fraud case.  Don agrees and asks Charlie and Alan to help with the site evaluation to figure out how the sinkhole could have formed.

Charlie’s participation is hindered by his new Division Chair at CalSci, Dr Mildred Finch.  Dr Finch, or Millie, wants Charlie to focus more on his mathematics and teaching responsibilities and less time on his “forensic hobby”.

Rescue crews manage to pull everyone from the hole, however the teacher Trudy Perez dies after inhaling benzine and several of the children along with physical injuries have developed a rash.  Looking through the construction companies records, Larry and Charlie figure out the company used recycled toxic waste in an aggregate form to pave the school playground, they think the aggregate is starting to break down, causing all sorts of illnesses for the students at the school including several forms of cancer.  Charlie however finds that the company paved playgrounds for seventeen LA schools and all of them appear to be cancer clusters.  Don is now convinced there’s something wrong with the material used for paving.

Don and Meeks confront Boyd Resnick and his lawyer Reid Parkman with the idea the aggregate is breaking down. Resnick admits they don’t know how the aggregate will fare over time and it is possible the compound is the cause of the sinkhole.  He offers to repave every school that has the aggregate now and he will compensate the families of the school where the sinkhole formed.

Charlie and Larry do more research into the company responsible for making the aggregate and discover the aggregate really is inert and not an environmental threat.  They also discover the company is missing some 80,000 tons of waste.  Using seismic imaging,  Don’s team discovers three dozen barrels of toxic waste buried under the school playground.  The waste had seeped out of the barrels and eroded away the ground to form the sinkhole.

Don’s team is even more determined now to make sure the construction company and Resnick pay for not only the fraud, but the environmental problem created by the seeping waste.  Their case is severely hurt when their star witness, the president of the school board responsible for hiring the company is murdered.  In a last effort David is sent into the recycling facility as an EPA officer.  Parkman offers him a bribe to overlook shipments of waste marked as aggregate.  Parkman and Resnick are arrested.