Following radioactivity testing on beagles decades ago, UC Davis to finish cleaning contaminated soil

RAUL MORALES / AGGIE

UC Davis to clean 25-acre former testing site as part of $14 million settlement with EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated in a recent press release that it had reached a settlement with the UC Regents to clean up decades worth of contaminated soil, solid waste and soil gas at the “Laboratory for Energy-related Health Research/Old Campus Landfill Superfund site” in Davis.

Studies completed at the laboratory from the 1950s to the 1980s were focused on the health effects of low-level radiation on laboratory animals, according to the press release.

Scientists at UC Davis were specifically examining the “long-term consequences of sublethal radiation exposure” on beagles in what is now called Project Four, according to an official university post online.

According to The Sacramento Bee, Project Four was part of an agreement with the same unit of the Defense Department which had overseen the Manhattan Project — the project focused on developing an atomic weapon, during World War II,

Although there are no radioactive materials remaining, The Bee reported that the site is still contaminated with “pesticides, lead, chloroform and other toxic materials.”

After an expansion of the project in the ‘70s, it was terminated at the end of the Cold War in the ‘80s. The federal government spent “millions of dollars decontaminating buildings and hauling away the remains of hundreds of dead dogs,” The Bee reported.

“The site, which contains laboratory buildings and undeveloped land, covers approximately 25 acres on the University’s South Campus,” the release stated, adding that the site is just 250 feet north of “the South Fork of Putah Creek” and “south of Interstate 80 and east of Old Davis Road.”

The studies contaminated soil and groundwater on the site with what the EPA states are “hazardous chemicals”.

“Three inactive landfill areas remain on site,” the release said. “Following initial actions to protect human health and the environment, site investigations, groundwater treatment and long-term cleanup planning are ongoing.”

Andy Fell of UC Davis News and Media Relations said that the “low-level radioactivity” of the site was cleaned up in 2002. The EPA’s website confirmed this information.

A statement sent via email from Melissa Blouin, the director of University News and Media Relations, said the university has been “proactively addressing” the site since the 1990s.

“This announcement reflects the EPA’s approval of our long-term plans for this portion of the property,” the university’s statement read. “UC Davis is glad that this long-planned collaborative and positive process is now officially moving forward towards completion.”

According to the EPA press release, this cleanup is estimated to cost $14 million. This agreement was reached under the Superfund law, “which requires parties responsible for contaminating a Superfund site to clean up the site, or reimburse the government or other parties for cleanup activities,” the release stated.

More information about the cleanup and contamination is available on the EPA’s website.

 

Written by: Sabrina Habchi — campus@theaggie.org