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Page ranch concession is the right thing for UA

By Wildcat Opinions Board
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
April 13, 2000
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Earlier this week, the University of Arizona's Risk Management department made a much-needed concession that represents what any level of higher education should aim for.

Responding to complaints from Oracle residents about the controversial UA-owned Page Ranch, Steve Holland, the director of Risk Management, said the university would fund additional tests on possible groundwater contamination.

Page Ranch, which was purchased in 1941, was used as a toxic waste dump by the UA until 1984. Recently, residents in the area of Page Ranch grew adamant that the excessive dumping could have resulted in the polluting of the water. Such actions would obviously have serious affects on the health and property values in the area.

And, although Holland is confident that the "likelihood of groundwater contamination is minimal," the UA is still doing the right thing.

Operating a university is about more than the education of students. Among other things, it involves ensuring public confidence in the day-to-day activities associated with the university.

By purpose or not, the UA entered into a partnership with the people in Oracle when it began using Page Ranch as a dump. Every activity, therefore, that transpired on the land became important not just for the university, but also the people living there. Such a partnership is much like a business agreement - both parties are equally responsible to keep a close eye on the issue.

The UA got what it wanted with the land, as it served its purpose for a dumping ground for several decades. Now, the people want something in return and the UA is obligated to accommodate them.

Residents of Oracle have every right to demand that the UA pay heed to their worries, especially in this case where their groundwater - an essential resource - might be permanently tainted.

Although extensive tests might prove this assertion to be false, Holland and the UA are doing the right and admirable thing. Agreeing to more extensive tests at the site's wells that will cost about $5,000 - compared to the $1,000 annual test currently being administered - is a small price to pay to regain the confidence of the UA community.

Hopefully, this action will help rebuild the trust between the university and outlying areas.

Administrators, like students, make mistakes. Holland admitted earlier this week he has "grown" since refusing to fund the more extensive - and expensive - tests.

"At that point I wasn't willing to expend as much money," he told the Arizona Daily Wildcat.

And apparently, the UA's new, responsible stance is a good start for the residents in the area.

"It gives the residents the impression that they are a little more proactive," said Cliff Russell, an Oracle resident.

The decision by officials may be a bit tardy, but it is nevertheless a starting point to mending a broken relationship between the UA and concerned members of the community.

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