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Jan-18-2014 01:58printcommentsVideo

Irvine Wants High School Students to Suffer Same Fate as Cancer Ridden Marines

Who needs Ninja Turtles when you have Irvine High School, future home of "The Mutants"?

Ominous warning painted deep in the bowels of the restricted area of MCAS El Toro
Ominous warning painted deep in the bowels of the restricted area of MCAS El Toro, photographer's name withheld.

(IRVINE) - An Irvine city council member wants "The Safest City in America" (cough) to build a high school for children on one of the most contaminated land sites in Orange County, the former Marine aviation base, Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) El Toro. Irvine bought the base years ago in spite of its deadly, toxic disposition, with plans of building a "Great Park" and a massive housing subdivision.

MCAS El Toro photo by Tim King

Of course those who follow this developing story know that Irvine's "Great Park" financial fiasco was outed last week by Voice of OC. Millions and millions of dollars have disappeared in recent years under the watch of former Irvine Mayor Larry Agran and Great Park CEO Mike Ellzy.

It is hard for me to write about the contamination of my former Marine Corps base in Southern California, El Toro, which was annexed by the city of Irvine after its closure, without conveying a large degree of bias.

Sadly, I am part of this story, along with about a million Marines, who served at El Toro from its opening during World War Two, until the base's closure in 1999. Two of my sons were born with severe health defects and both had major surgery in their first six months of life.

Twenty years later, my wife and I discovered that the base had been designated as an EPA Superfund site for TCE (trichlorotethylene) contamination, and that is only one of a host of toxic chemicals that infest this place.

I began investigating the contamination in 2008, and turning written and video reports for Allied with former El Toro Marines who are also writers today, Robert O'Dowd, Roger Butow and John Uldrich, we began revealing and exposing the ugly details about intense human suffering among those who chose to serve in the nation's most hardcore military branch. The reward... contamination of our bodies, was hardly a fitting one.

The horror stories from El Toro Marines are frightening, frighteningly real... as are the stories from Woodbridge, Irvine residents, who mysteriously suffer from cancer at rates that are far above the scale.

Here is some of the witness testimony we have been sent over the years, names are all withheld:

  • I was stationed in MCAS El Toro, MAG-41, H&MS-11 from 1983 thru 1987. I used Trichloroethylene and tetrachloroethylene daily, thousands of gallons thru out my Marine Corps tours. My field was an F-4/F-18 Hydraulic and Pneumatic technician working in H&MS-11. I have also used them at MCAS Dallas Texas from 1979 thru 1983. I have bathed in this stuff literally.
  • My father retired after 30 years in the marines. We lived at MCAS El Toro, Ca for 7 years. now that we are grown up, we (base kids) are having all kinds of unexplained health problems. Some of us base kids have even died from these medical problems. No one is talking about this. I mean government people are addressing this issue. There was a lawyer out of Long Beach, Ca that took this case 10 years ago, but he disappeared.
  • My Uncle Colonel ***** *****, USMC a former Pilot who was stationed at El Toro also fell ill and passed away from Brain Cancer.
  • I was station at El Toro Marine Air Base from 1971 -1972 and then again from 1973 to 1974, I was assigned to VMA 223 and VMA 214 squadrons, as a aircraft hydraulic mechanic, we used TCE on a daily basis to clean parts. I have filed a claim for service related disability and to this date it is still under review. Can you provide some information? I was told by the VA, that since the President has not labeled El Toro the same as Camp Lejune my claim will not be approved.
  • I got out in 1989 because I had 3 children and a no good husband and they wanted to send me to desert storm or whatever conflict was going on at that time but I was pregnant but they said as soon as I have the baby I was going to be shipped out so I decided in the best interest of my children to stay at home. I lost one child while stationed there and I had a daughter that was conceived while stationed there that was born with an extremely rare disease and sadly left me 5 years later so if you can be of any help I sure would appreciate it. Thank you soooo much.
  • I was stationed at El Toro in the 90's. I became ill there and have been sick ever since. Who can I talk to regarding this? Please let me know. I am very appreciative of your work. Thank you and SEMPER FI...
  • I was stationeded at MCAS El Toro from December 1977 thru January 1979. I was assigned to MWSG-37 (TAFDS) tactical airfield fuel dispensing systems working as an aircraft refueler. In may 2010 I was diagnosed with kidney cancer and a metastatic carcinoid tumor in my small intestine. I have had two surgeries one to remove my right kidney and and one to resection my small intestine. After talking to my oncologist about family history and my past military service he wrote a letter to the veterans administration stating that my cancer was more likely than not caused by exposure to TCE and PCE while stationed at El Toro. I just received a letter today from the VA stating they received my claim for additional benefits I will let you know how this turns out.
  • I was stationed there 69-70 and I am having some medical issues that might be related.
  • I spent 1980 to 85 there at El Toro VMFA 323 and VMFP 3, how serious is the chance of my stomach illness is coming from this? My belly swells for no reasons and the pain is intense but not to get into all the details, is there something the government is doing for us?

The statements above are only part of the contact I have received about El Toro since the summer of 2012, there are many that I have not listed in that time frame, plus all of the email dating back as far as 2008.

Around 2009

I have included the statements because it is of dire importance that people in Irvine halt any idea of a school being built anywhere near this dangerous, toxic base.

The second video above is about the former El Toro school. Yes, there was/is already a school there and I have met with a gathering of former El Toro School teachers, who tell a sad story of teachers and students dying frequently of cancer.

To put the contamination of what the School District's letter below refers to as "Section B" at El Toro into perspective, I was driving on the closed base in 2008, on a summer day, when I parked on the blacktop by my old squadron hangar and left my car parked for less than an hour so I could walk around and take a few pictures.

When I drove away, the car had a distinct problem which I assumed was a nail in a tire. I pulled over and was astonished to see that a large patch of asphalt had become stuck to one of my tires.

In the 1980's

I have never observed anything like this and I've spent time in hellish hot places like Arizona, Kuwait and Iraq.

It was an average hot day in California, probably 85 degrees outside, not hot enough to melt asphalt. What quite obviously happened, was that the TCE at this section of the base, "Section B" is so devastating that it festers and brews at surface level. This is where Irvine wants to place children and I'm telling you the act is criminal.

My sergeant has suffered male breast cancer and had to place two of his children in the ground due to cancer. Everywhere I turn, as indicated by the statements above, I meet another person who knows a Marine who died from cancer. You just wouldn't believe it.

Dr. Phil Leveque, who is also a writer, says TCE and the other contaminants mean that in a thousand years, the base will still be dirty. He says the only answer is to put a wall up around it and ban people from stepping onto the place. Instead, in spite of the very painfully obvious health risks, Irvine plans to use the toxic land as a home building site. Are people really that stupid in this day and age?

As it is, a six mile long TCE plume is in the groundwater below El Toro and it actually flows right under Irvine City Hall.

Here is the letter relating the city's intention.

On Friday, January 17, 2014 1:32 PM, Irvine Unified School District wrote:

Irvine Unified School District

Dear IUSD community member:

Our district has a long history of thoughtful and strategic planning, resulting in schools of the highest quality. By law and by practice, our staff and our contractors strive to provide optimal learning environments that maximize the investments made by local taxpayers.

As you may have heard during one of our recent Board of Education meetings, there has been an extensive amount of work involved in studying two potential sites for our next comprehensive high school. This letter is being sent to bring you up to speed and to clarify some of the facts.

For those who aren’t familiar with our facilities planning efforts, our district, which has experienced rapid growth as a result of recent development, is working to open a new campus in September 2016 to avert overcrowding at Irvine, Northwood, University and Woodbridge high schools. Plans have been underway for several years now, and IUSD and its developer partners have agreements in place for a 40-acre site near the northeast border of the Great Park, often referred to as Site A. Meanwhile, a member of the Irvine City Council has advocated for an alternative location, and in September the Council voted to present it for the district’s consideration. The second site, on the west side of the Great Park, is known as Site B, and the motion approved by the City set a minimum purchase price of $60 million.

IUSD has directed significant resources to ensure thorough reviews of both sites, and though this process is ongoing, our preliminary analysis has not revealed any significant advantage to moving the campus to Site B. Our district is not alone in this assessment. The California Department of Education has deemed both locations suitable to accommodate an Irvine-quality comprehensive high school, and the Irvine Unified Council PTA recently completed a report endorsing Site A after engaging in its own thorough analysis, examining such factors as safety, traffic and timing. In fact, initial site reviews indicate potentially greater concerns, costs and possible mitigation needs for Site B. More on that in a moment.

Suffice to say, absent clear and compelling advantages to changing the location of our fifth high school, it would be irresponsible for our district to switch sites, particularly as this action would result in a project delay of at least a year, triggering acute overcrowding at Irvine, Northwood, University and Woodbridge high schools and generating an estimated $20 million in additional costs. Our district will therefore continue to move forward with Site A, but our analysis of Site B will also continue, ensuring no stone is left unturned.

Naturally, we will work closely with all required state agencies, including the Department of Toxic Substance Control, to ensure our schools meet or exceed the clear and rigorous guidelines established for school construction.

We recognize that all of our stakeholders want the absolute best location for Irvine’s next high school, and in recent meetings there has been some discussion of environmental issues and the Orange County Great Park’s proximity to the James A. Musick Facility. I want to assure you that these features have been thoughtfully researched with the help of a number of building and safety experts, and what we’ve learned so far bolsters the case for Site A.

For example, Site B has been identified under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) as a Hazardous Material site due to the significant amount of historic military activity, including being home to two dozen underground storage tanks, at least 12 buildings, officer quarters, a mess hall and field storage, as well as an aircraft expeditionary refueling site and petroleum storage. There are also two groundwater plumes and overhead power lines nearby. By contrast, Site A does not have this RCRA designation and was primarily used for agriculture. A capped landfill is located north of Site A, containing primarily construction debris and ash. Mitigation measures were taken by the U.S. Navy, and periodic testing ensures the integrity of the cap.

Some proponents of Site B have noted that Site A is closer to the James A. Musick Facility, noting that the minimum-security jail has been slated for expansion. Yet crime statistics and multiple studies do not support the position that jails increase crime or have any impact on neighboring school sites. In addition, the facility would be housing the same levels of low-threat inmates with significantly enhanced security compared to what exists today. In a letter dated Sept. 24, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens wrote that remarks made during a September City Council meeting “gave a distorted impression of the future plans for the facility.” Sheriff Hutchens added that the “nature of the Musick population will not change due to new construction.” Robert Beaver, director of research and development for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, confirmed a binding memorandum of understanding with the City of Lake Forest that effectively limits the size of the facility to 3,100 beds and prohibits the detention of maximum-security inmates. He also clarified at a recent school board meeting that Musick’s dormitory-style design would not be a feasible model for housing the county’s high-threat inmates, adding that the Sheriff’s Department has more than adequate maximum-security space in other facilities to house these kinds of inmates.

It is also important to note that this area of the city is in the initial stages of development and will soon become a thriving residential community, with thousands of new homes. This is one of the reasons a high school campus must be in place -- to meet the needs of this new community. The continued master-planned development of these neighborhoods and the City’s approval of these plans are further evidence of our shared confidence in the safety and viability of this location.

I would add that regardless of where our next high school is built, we will work closely with the Irvine Police Department and other agencies to ensure the new facility has state-of-the-art safety and security systems, including high-tech surveillance. As with our existing middle and high schools, it will also benefit from the presence of on-site district and police personnel.

Building a new high school is a project of monumental importance, and our district will settle for nothing short of an optimal environment for academics, athletics and co-curricular activities. If, after our exhaustive analysis, there is a valid justification for moving the location and delaying construction, our Board of Education will make that decision. Conversely, if there is no clear evidence that Site B is a more advantageous location, it would not be prudent to arbitrarily pursue a course that would delay the project, cause significant overcrowding at our existing sites, adversely impact thousands of Irvine students and needlessly waste tens of millions of dollars.

I don’t have to tell you that Irvine is a special place, and it is so because community members like you take an active role as citizens and stakeholders. Above all, our No. 1 obligation as a school district is to do what is best for the students of Irvine, and I know that you share this objective. I appreciate that there are many dynamic facets to this discussion and would encourage you to review the related stories on the IUSD NewsFlash. As always, thank you for all that you do to support education in Irvine.

Terry L. Walker
Superintendent of Schools

TERRY L. WALKER, Superintendent of Schools
JOHN FOGARTY, Assistant Superintendent, Business Services / BRIANNE FORD, Chief Technology Officer
EAMONN O’DONOVAN, Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources / CASSIE PARHAM, Assistant Superintendent, Education Services

IUSD . . . providing the highest quality educational experience we can envision.

Those who are concerned about the proposed school at El Toro should contact Irvine City Hall and the Irvine Unified School District. Details on the contamination of MCAS El Toro can visit the Woodbridge Library and examine a series of reports from U.S Navy contractors who evaluated the base toxicity and issued the findings we cite today.

This Irvine Website has contact information for all of the different city components:

At this address you can contact the Irvine Unified School District:


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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'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 who follows stories of Marines and Marine Veterans; he's covered British Royal Marines and in Iraq, Tim embedded with the same unit he served with in the 1980's.

He holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from traditional mainstream news agencies like The Associated Press and Electronic Media Association; he also holds awards from the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs; and was presented with a 'Good Neighbor Award' for his reporting, by the The Red Cross.

Tim's years as a Human Rights reporter have taken on many dimensions; he has rallied for a long list of cultures and populations and continues to every day, with a strong and direct concentration on the 2009 Genocide of Tamil Hindus and Christians in Sri Lanka. As a result of his long list of reports exposing war crimes against Tamil people, Tim was invited to be the keynote speaker at the FeTNA (Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America) Conference in Baltimore, in July 2012. This is the largest annual gathering of North American Tamils; Tim addressed more than 3000 people and was presented with a traditional Sri Lanka ‘blessed garland’ and a shawl as per the tradition and custom of Tamil Nadu, India.

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W.D.BYRD SR March 23, 2018 11:44 am (Pacific time)

I'am a (65), year old Marine, that was station at EL TORO MCAS, FROM (1972-1974), And I, have a mix of illness, from poly-auturitis-nodosa, to vascular problems and amputations, I have only just started to find out about the problems at el-toro. I just filed a claim, this year. I hope I live long enough to collect,??? They will turn me down. But whats left.

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