Kaz and I were eating breakfast at Mother Cody’s Cafe in the early 1980's when local attorney Jeffrey Blackman approached our table.
“The University of Arizona is poisoning our water,” he said to us and anyone else within earshot of his loud proclamation. “They’re running a hazardous waste dump on top of our water supply,” he shouted even louder.
“Oracle will be poisoned by a toxic brew moving down stream from the ranch where it was deposited. Maybe it already is.”
Blackman produced an Arizona Daily Star report that detailed Pinal County official’s shock at learning of University waste disposal practices. A fire at the dump site, mistaken for a downed aircraft from Davis Monthan Air Base, blew the whistle. Dumping of chemical and radioactive waste into open trenches across county lines had been ongoing for decades. The trenches were water traps in monsoon times, driving pollutants towards Oracle’s aquifer. Pinal County officials accused the University of “sneaking into Pinal County” to deposit its waste.
The offending dump was located on ranch property a few miles from Oracle that had been owned and operated by J T Page. Page made the purchase later in life when migrating west. He intended to manage ranch land in a way that relied on rainwater and resisted mechanized farming with chemical fertilizers and weed killers. At his death in 1940 he gave the land to the University of Arizona conditioned on furthering his passion for arid lands research.
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Kaz and I moved to Oracle in 1979. The house we bought dated to the late 1940s. With little advance knowledge of the place, we set out to build a new life together, intending to settle in and raise a family.