Laurence Davis recalls reviewing a thick report about expanding a landfill in Nashua, New Hampshire, when he had worked for the state's department of environmental services. He says that although consultants had spent $400,000 on test borings, many of the drillings would have been unnecessary if the consultants simply had referred to a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) topographical quadrant map that cost just a few dollars. The map, in this case, detailed both bedrock and surface geology, and indicated that the site the consultants were examining sat on the site of an old glacial lake bed that was not impermeable— an unsuitable location for expanding the landfill.
“Had they bought that map, they could have saved about $300,000 because they wouldn't have had to put in most of those borings,” says Davis, now a professor of Earth and environmental sciences at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. When Davis recently visited congressional offices in Washington, D.C. for the first time, he related that story to elected officials to convince them of the value of scientific research and the need for increased funding for projects such as USGS mapping.