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Contaminated Marine Base in Irvine Slated for Public Park and Community Development (VIDEO REPORT)Tim King Salem-News.com
This is part four in a continuing video news report series on TCE chemical waste stemming from the now-closed El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.
(IRVINE, Calif.) - A veil of secrecy seems to cloud and obscure the real facts behind the closure of the El Toro Marine air base. Documents from the Navy confirm that El Toro is a hazardous waste zone. It is not new information, an environmental cleanup project has been underway for some time, but the extent of the problem and the distance the toxic contamination has traveled from the base is a serious issue, particularly for the Irvine community of Woodbridge.
For years, aviation crews at the base used a chemical degreaser on jet fighters called TCE that was disposed of hap hazardously, often poured straight onto the ground after use. In spite of this public information, city officials in Irvine, California, say the air station that was closed in 1999, will be a great location for a new park and housing development.
But Orange County residents like Bill Turner who have been investigating the issue in recent years, say extensive environmental cleanup needs to happen here before any development takes place. That's because El Toro Marines have been fallen sick with a variety of symptoms that match those of TCE, or Trichloroethylene, contamination. particularly in the part of the base becoming known as "Ground Zero" at El Toro: the Marine Wing Support Group 37.
The problems may begin at El Toro, but they don't end there. An underground plume of TCE has moved into an Irvine, California neighborhood and residents of this Woodbridge community have contacted Salem-News.com saying they had no idea the problem was this severe. Other contend that there has been a great deal of local coverage on the issue.
Bill Turner commented on how the problem originated, "What happens is TCE is a very stable molecule and TCE was a part of cleaning fluids used on jet engines at El Toro marine base. This over the years was dumped on the surface of the land and it migrated down into the water table and the water table is moving the TCE off the base into this Woodbridge community here."
Irvine Public Affairs Spokesman Louie Gonzales was not prepared to offer comments about the TCE, but he did describe the proposed park that recently got the go ahead and $200 million to get the project underway.
"The Great Park is a concept that contains 1,347 acres, it has many elements that will we believe will be of great value to the community and to the region. It will have many elements such as a sports park, museums, play and ball fiedls of various types. The whole idea is to provide the community with a great metropolitan park of the 21st Century."
While researching this story, my travels led me toward my old hangar building that I worked out of as a Marine in the early 1980's, I spent more than two years stationed here in the most contaminated part of the base; Marine Wing Support Group 37: Ground Zero at El Toro.
After being parked for less than ten minutes I noticed that the asphalt from the parking lot had literally lifted away with my tire. The hazardous waste at this base is at surface level. This is where a park with ball fields will be constructed. It could seem like a risky move for this city to make, and TCE is not the only chemical stemming from El Toro.
Bill Turner says the proof is all in public documents, and copies are located at the El Toro repository and the Irvine Public Library. Unfortunately, he and other who have studied the problems see no easy answers.
"There are a number of different chemicals, toxic chemicals that were left by the Marines when they vacated El Toro. There is a major cleanup activity going on at El Toro. The question is, 'are they going to get it all? How much are they going to get?' We don't think they will ever get all the TCE; that is quite impossible. It has thoroughly penetrated the water table around here and I can't ever envision them being able to clean it all up."
Camp Lejeune is another Marine Corps base with serious problems from chemical contamination. Still an active base, Lejeune is contaminated with both TCE and a similar chemical known as PCE, perchloroethylene.
Here is the Salem-News.com video report by Tim King, courtesy of YouTube. Also please remember that there are important story links below the video frame:
Here are the other installments in this series on El Toro:
These are all related Salem-News.com reports on TCE:
Tim King has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. Tim is Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine.
Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from The Associated Press the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs, Electronic Media Association and The Red Cross In a personal capacity, Tim has written 2,026 articles as of March 2012 for Salem-News.com since the new format designed by Matt Lintz was launched in December, 2005.
Serving readers with news from all over the globe, Tim's life is literally encircled by the endless news flow published by Salem-News.com, where more than 100 writers contribute stories from 20+ countries and regions.
Tim specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide with an emphasis on Palestine and Sri Lanka, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the U.S. Marines. You can write to Tim at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Tim's Facebook page (facebook.com/TimKing.Reporter)
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