LEHR Superfund Site

LEHR, the former Laboratory of Energy-related Health Research, was the site of sponsored research for the Department of Energy (DOE) from the late 1950's to the late 1980's. 

UC Davis and the DOE are currently investigating and remediating solid waste landfills and radioactive waste disposal sites at the facility.

  • Read more about the history of LEHR
  •  Full-scale experimental use of radioactive materials, including strontium-90 and radium-226, began at the LEHR facility in 1960. Portions of the LEHR facility site had previously been used as the UC Davis campus landfill. The landfill consisted of three separate disposal units. Disposal in the oldest unit began in the 1940s and ceased in approximately 1958. The area is now partially covered by the former Cobalt-60 Field at the LEHR facility. The next oldest disposal area received wastes from approximately 1958 to 1966. A portion of this disposal area was re-used as dog pens to house research animals at the LEHR facility. A third landfill disposal unit, located approximately 600 feet east of the LEHR facility, was used from 1963 to 1967. The combined total acreage for the three disposal areas is estimated at approximately six acres (Dames & Moore, 1990).

         In the early 1970s, an outdoor Cobalt-60 Field was constructed at the LEHR facility to study the effects of chronic exposure to penetrating gamma ray irradiation on bone marrow cells of beagles. The study was terminated in 1985, and the cobalt-60 source was removed in 1993.

         In 1975, a program in basic aerosol science was initiated at the LEHR facility to link the evaluation of airborne materials and the laboratory study of these materials utilizing cellular and animal models. The DOE (1988) reported that research activities in this program focused on the potential health effects of release to the atmosphere of combustion products from fossil fuel power plants with emphasis on coal flyash.

Deed Restrictions and Soil Disturbance Permit
Contaminants and Risks

Chloroform a chemical compound that is part of a group called volatile organic compounds (abbreviated as VOC). These compounds quickly evaporate at room temperatures; a pail of water containing volatile compounds left out in the sun will soon lose the compounds through evaporation. Chloroform is leaking from an apparently specific source (i.e., buried waste chloroform from research activities) from one of the old waste units at LEHR, and has entered the shallowest aquifer, which lies roughly 40 ft. to 130 ft. below the surface.

Hexavalent Chromium
Chromium is a naturally occurring metallic element that can be found in water and in soil or rocks. It is also present in the food we eat, either in the food itself or in residual soils that might remain on such items as produce. There have been detections of hexavalent chromium in groundwater at LEHR and in the vicinity. At LEHR, hexavalent chromium has been consistently detected in two shallow groundwater monitoring wells (about 55-70 feet deep). The concentrations range from less than 10 ug/L to 350 ug/L. This water is not used for drinking.

Nitrogen is an element essential to living matter. It occurs naturally in the environment in soil, water, and air. Nitrogen is present in many compounds, including ammonia and nitrate. There have been detections of nitrate-nitrogen in groundwater at LEHR and in the vicinity. Over the past few years of groundwater sampling at LEHR, nitrate-nitrogen has been consistently detected in most site wells with results between 2 mg/L and 68 mg/L.

Questions and Comments

UC Davis is committed to keeping the public informed on the happenings of the LEHR site; it is also important that we address any questions or concerns the community may have. Please email enviroteam@ucdavis.edu with any questions. 

For more information and resources: