HDR investigated the pore-pressure theory and, for a period of time, considered it the most likely cause. However, after being fired by Tampa Bay Water as the utility announced plans to sue, the engineering firm discovered construction photos that seemed to indicate the possibility of improper soil placement techniques. One Black & Veatch official who viewed the photos raised the theory that poorly compacted soil could form voids and then collapse after getting wet. In court, HDR is contending this scenario is the most likely cause.

Carrier oversaw the reservoir project for the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection during the permitting stage and was the first person to investigate the cracking, in January 2007. He is a central character in the legal drama.

Carrier testified that, early on, he  deemed pore pressure the “most likely cause” of the cracking. However, after failing to find data indicating pore pressure was occurring and “having trouble reconciling [that] just those two areas” were experiencing cracking, Carrier no longer believes this theory, he testified.

Asked by Tampa Bay Water attorneys whether he currently has an opinion about the cause of the cracking that he could defend with “engineering certainty,” Carrier said he did not.

Meanwhile, TBW is pushing forward with a $162.4-million project to repair and expand the reservoir. HDR says the work is rebuilding, not repairs.