Did you know Davis has a Superfund site? Two, actually. Oddly, you won’t find either in the city’s promotional brochures. Also odd is that both are dog-related.
Before I go further, let me state that Davis is a pretty dog-friendly town. It’s not Carmel or Berkeley, where canines enjoy voting rights, but it’s accepting of man’s, er—this is Davis—people’s best friend. A few retailers—the ever-helpful Hibbert Lumber Co. and the terrific global newsstand/exotic candy bazaar Newsbeat—not only allow leashed dogs but keep treats on hand for the well-behaved. Most restaurants with outdoor dining let you tie up a furry one nearby, too.
After years of complaining, dog owners in 2005 were awarded a real off-leash pooch park, the sun-baked and alternatively swampy Toad Hollow Dog Park. Before Toad Hollow, the best the city had to offer was a few dog runs in city parks, some unfenced. Toad Hollow is a hit, and you gotta admire Samaritans like the Acorn Veterinary Clinic, which stocks the park with biodegradable poop bags.
It’s been a long journey to Toad Hollow, though. The Laboratory for Energy-Related Health Research performed radiation tests on dogs, right here at UC Davis. Thus, one can perhaps look at Davis’ nuclear-free zone declaration in 1984 as the mantra of a reformed addict.
From the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund Web site:
“Research at LEHR through the mid-1980s focused on the health effects from chronic exposure to radionuclides, primarily strontium-90 (Sr-90) and radium-226 (Ra-226). In the early 1970s, a cobalt-60 irradiator facility was constructed at LEHR to study the effects of chronic exposure to gamma rays on bone marrow cells of beagles. … From the 1940s through the mid-1960s, portions of the site were used as the UC Davis campus landfill. Burial holes and trenches around the landfills were used to dispose low-level radioactive and mixed waste from UC Davis and LEHR research activities.”
Thus, to the campus landfill was added radioactive remains. In May 1994, the “LEHR/Old Campus Landfill” area was declared a Superfund site, owing to the possibility of contaminants in the groundwater. That’s troubling because Davis, unlike you river-sippers in Sacramento, draws its drinking water from underground.
Is it true? Did the school that hosts dachshund races each year on Picnic Day really perform radiological experiments on pregnant beagles?
Chris Watson was 6 and living in Fairfield in April 1966 when his sister, a UC Davis student, brought home a puppy with numbers tattooed inside one of its floppy ears. Apparently, her boyfriend worked in the LEHR lab and had found a beagle marked for destruction, although it showed no ill effects of the radiation. Spirited away in a briefcase to the Watson’s house, the puppy’s first act was to lap up Chris’ father’s drink, which was sitting on the floor. Hence her name: Daiquiri, The Radioactive Beagle.
According to Chris, who now lives in Oregon, Daiquiri was his companion for the next 14 years before dying in 1980 of cancerous tumors—which Chris contends may have been a delayed result of the radiation.
Surely, Daiquiri would have enjoyed a romp at Toad Hollow.