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Feb-03-2009 08:53printcomments

El Toro Marines Ask Navy for Help

Veterans start on-line petition to request the Navy's Public Health Center to evaluate the risks of occupational exposure to TCE and other contaminants at MCAS El Toro.

MCAS El Toro bull and Navy logo
Marines clowning around on what turns out to be one of the most contaminated sections of the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. Lopez, Quinn, Stover and Jung.
Photo by Tim King USMC Summer 1981

(SOMERDALE, N.J.) - El Toro Marine veterans are asking the Navy Marine Corps Public Health Center, Occupational Health Department, to address the occupational risks of exposure to Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), radionuclides and other contaminants at former MCAS El Toro.

On January 2, 2009, the Agency of Toxic Substances Registry (ATSDR) recommended that the Navy be contacted to address the potential exposure to workers to chemicals used in the occupational environment at former MCAS El Toro.

In 1990, MCAS El Toro was placed on EPA’s National Priorities List (NPL) primarily because of a plume of toxic waste (primarily TCE) spreading off base several miles which threatened the local water supply.

Trichloroethylene (TCE) was used as a degreaser at MCAS El Toro for decades before environmental safe disposal practices were implemented. Industrial activities related to electroplating processes, an abrasive blast unit, parts cleaning tank, vacublast recycling units, battery room, and metal working furnaces contributed to the release of waste.

No usage records were maintained by MCAS El Toro, but the levels of TCE found in the soil gas, soil moisture, and groundwater indicate a high volume of TCE usage. The Navy estimated 8,000 pounds of TCE in the soil and groundwater at El Toro. The City of Irvine’s consultant estimated the amount at 700,000 pounds. The Navy disputes the higher amount. What is not disputed is the fact that the toxic plume cut a path through six of the eight base wells.

At least one screen and likely others constructed at the same time were found in the contaminated shallow aquifer at MCAS El Toro. Even after the award of an early municipal water services contract in June 1951, MCAS engineering drawings showed five of the original base wells functioning as part of the base’s water distribution system.

There is evidence that two other wells were constructed as the Homestead Wells #1 and #2 after the municipal water purchase.

The shallow aquifer had elevated levels of TDS (“salts”) > 1,000 ug/L, putting well casings and pumps at risk for galvanic corrosion. The Navy’s consulting engineers found extensive corrosion in the wells prior their destruction (1998-2006). Corrosion would have unknowingly contributed to the contamination of well water with TCE and other VOCs.

Exposure from vapor inhalation was a risk for Marines and Sailors at MCAS El Toro, especially for those working in hangars with TCE in open containers. The two huge maintenance hangars in the Marine Wing Services Group 37 were found to be the source of TCE spreading off the base into Orange County.

Marines and Sailors using TCE to degrease aircraft parts without protective clothing were at risk for dermal exposure to this carcinogen.

Veterans of MCAS El Toro are asked to sign the petition at gopetition.com/petitions/cdr-melissa-mohon-usn.html, including comments on an illness possible linked to TCE exposure.

Here is a complete list of the articles that have been generated on the contamination of the former Marine Base at El Toro and at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina:

Follow this link to all of our stories about the Marine Corps and TCE

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Anonymous August 5, 2019 11:32 am (Pacific time)

What is "Former Marine" crap? We always were and always will be EX-Marines.


ChrisJones February 3, 2009 4:04 pm (Pacific time)

Wait till they find out what DU is.

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