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Jan-27-2013 18:09printcommentsVideo

Irvine, MCAS El Toro and the Associated Bull

'America's Safest City' has a toxic, dirty secret that local press ignores.

MCAS El Toro toxic soup
Original artwork for Salem-News.com, by Shelli Pruett, author of Quantum Leap Cartoons, featured at www.QLCartoons.com

(IRVINE, CA) - There has to be a term for people who write at length about a subject without addressing the core root of the matter. I know money is important in Southern California, but if you're dead from cancer it means little.

Case at hand - they call it 'America's Safest City', yet Irvine has a terribly contaminated closed Marine Corps base on its hands, that is leaching toxic contaminants into the soil and groundwater, and God knows what else. But local media in Orange County barely touches the subject, even when they are writing specifically about El Toro. What type of a process is this?

A new article in the Orange County Register Guard, about the old base and plans to transform it into a park and housing community, completely fails to address El Toro's deadly contamination that has claimed the health and lives of so many Marines, Marine family members, and former civilian employees of the base. The list potentially extends to housing communities near the base today and those residents. Lest we forget there is another closed Marine base, MCAS(H) Tustin, only a couple of miles away.

In my view, the dismissal of a serious threat to the health and the future health of local residents is naïve at best. Some homes already exist that are immediately adjacent to the base. It is not the job of any newspaper to simultaneously report the news, and dismiss glaring, select facts. Perhaps the reporter does not know?[1]

I know that if you Google El Toro Marine Base, on the first page, three spaces down, you will see my video report, 'Hell Toro- Toxic Marine Base in Irvine - YouTube'.

This report is posted below along with a couple of others, they are fairly comprehensive, and very easy to find.

My complaints not withstanding, the OC Register article is very informative, it tackles another huge aspect of El Toro, that is millions and millions of dollars that the city of Irvine can not account for. We have been covering this issue closely since 2008 and what an eye opening education it has been.

None of the Irvine City Council members, according to the article written by Kimberly Pierceall, knew how much money had been provided for the Great Park and Lennar Homes project, and only Christina Shea knew how much was left, which is good, because she and now Mayor Stephen Choi, are the only members who have ever talked about the serious nuts and bolts of this proposed project.

I served as a Marine at El Toro in the early 1980's. At this time the base had a Santa Ana address and was in Orange County, it was incorporated by Irvine after its closure in 1999.

Once the base was closed and the 3rd Marine Air Wing was transferred to Miramar California, 'Fighter Town, USA', a long debate ensued over whether to turn El Toro into a civilian airport, much needed in Orange County, or a housing community, park and military cemetery.

Along the way plans for a military cemetery was trashed, which many of us take as a grave insult.... and then it was announced quite out of the blue, that the expansive runways would not be torn up. This is a move that vastly reduced the scope of the project, and raised many questions. Now one of the city council members, Jeff Lalloway, Great Park board Chairman, says they are going to tear the runways up after all. This is an interesting statement, as it seems the former Mayor understood at minimum, that breaking that concrete will be like exposing a hornet's nest of toxins. And it isn't just the El Toro chemicals that are a trapped, toxic threat.

As our Laguna Beach writer Roger Butow explained in a previous article, 'Irvine Great Park Inherits Contaminants Part II', the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station was a massive lima bean field before World War Two, it was rated California's top producer.

It is a matter of common knowledge that there were numerous herbicides and pesticides now known to be carcinogenic used by the former tenant Irvine Ranch for their lima bean fields. When the Ranch was sold and the base developed back in 1942 certain stages would have been implemented, TET (Team El Toro) assumes that no soil was exported offsite as there is no evidence this occurred and also grading strategies would have precluded it[2].

Until 1945, toxic chemicals were applied to the agriculture. Then the Marines landed, built El Toro, and spent the next half of a century dumping chemicals into the groundwater like TCE (tricholoriethylene) and numerous other cancer causing agents. It doesn't take a vivid imagination to understand, all military airfields are continually soaked in jet fuel, the benzene contamination ties to the fuel, and that is another big problem at this old place.

Anyone can enter the Irvine Library at Woodbridge, as I have done, and read the volumes of reports and contamination maps filed by U.S. Navy contractors. A several mile-long 'plume' of TCE flows from the base, right underneath Irvine City Hall. It is a massive problem in need of hundreds of millions of dollars in remediation and you reach a point where there are no good answers.

Roger Butow, who is long vested in California water quality, explains that the TCE being sucked out of the groundwater at El Toro, is pumped out raw and untreated through an underwater outlet half a mile off South Laguna Beach. It is Roger who eventually forced local authorities to post a small sign warning beach goers of the potential harm from contamination.

It is largely an invisible problem unless you visit the old base itself, which is a wreck of a place. Of course civilians aren't supposed to see much of the base but we have time and time again.

I am sorry to say that we are receiving increasing contact from local residents in Irvine who live near the base, who are battling cancer.

One case, just brought to my attention today, involves an Irvine mother who died from colon cancer in 1999 and her son who is battling it now, living in the same place. The interesting thing about this case is that the man was adopted, so there is no heredity involved.

I am presently involved in conversations with several people in the area who are battling illness and suspicious of connections between their health and El Toro.

We have written articles that expand greatly on the actual contaminants, needless to say TCE is the contaminant most often mentioned, but there are many more up to and including the most dangerous contaminant on the earth, that is U 235 enriched uranium.

As our writer in Somerdale, New Jersey, Robert O'Dowd, explained in a November 2012 article, 'Dioxin, TCE Drums, U-235 and El Toro's Panhandle', El Toro’s panhandle may be contaminated with weapons grade U-235, dioxin (the toxic chemical in Agent Orange), and buried, rusting 55 gallon drums of TCE;

We do know that one El Toro Marine who never served in Vietnam died from Agent Orange exposure, Dr. Chuck Bennett over 12 years ago cited two Orange County experts who examined soil samples from the panhandle and found weapons grade U-235 (the stuff that makes the BANG in nuclear bombs); and the Navy ignored testimony from an Orange County environmental expert who reported that TCE drums were buried on the base to hide them from the Marine Corps Inspector General. Public Works Department kept no record on the locations of the buried drums, but the base’s panhandle would be the perfect place for a frontend loader to bury the 55 gallon metal drums[3].

NUKES AT EL TORO?

This photo taken recently for Salem-News.com, shows a dire warning painted
inside of one of the old buildings, El Toro had a long relationship with nuclear
weapons. I know, I had to train for it as the image suggests. This particular photo
has never been published until now. (Photographer's name undisclosed)

In his article, Robert O'Dowd who is also a former El Toro Marine, cites the famous saying from pirate lore, "Dead men tell no tales," but he adds the strong fact that those who publish their research go on helping people long after they are gone.

    That is the case with the late Dr. Chuck Bennett, former Chair of the Technical Subcommittee of El Toro’s Restoration Advisory Board wrote a letter to the Fullerton Observer, dated May 29, 2000 entitled "An Update on Critical Issues for the El Toro Base Closure". Dr. Bennett died of a heart attack in December 2000.

    Dr. Bennett wrote, "Five decades of military operation have certainly had its impact on the environment at El Toro. Over 400 underground storage tanks that do not meet the 1998 Federal guidelines for storage use must be taken care of, which means either removed or closed in place."

    "It will take years to clean up or take care of the messes that the DoN sprinkled over 4500 acres of prime Orange County land. It may be prime land, but it sure isn’t pristine land! The DoN has made it clear that they have no intention of returning pristine land to the County. They will clean up the 4500 acres only to the levels that the Regulatory Agencies require."

    A number of topics are discussed in Dr. Bennett's letter. One regards "an important report" from Department of Navy consultants released in 2000, about radionuclides in the groundwater at El Toro near the base’s four landfills and the EOD, or Explosives Ordnance Disposal area.

    Consultants concluded at the time, that the only radionuclide of importance present at the site was Uranium of natural origin. Dr. Bennett said that if it is of natural origin the DoN would have no obligation to remediate the Uranium.

    "But the DoN has a bit of a problem," Dr. Bennett wrote.

Available now on Amazon Kindle

I personally approached the representative for the Dept. of the Navy at an Irvine City Council meeting a couple of years ago, and asked point blank about the U-235 contamination, which he flatly denied the existence of. So, we are to assume that a paid government suit knows more than a doctor charged specifically with determining the nuclear hazards that El Toro posed? I suggest reading the associated linked article below for specific background.

The OC Register article about El Toro is well written and revealing of the financial train wreck that Irvine has on its hands, I hope this reporter and others in the future will look at the even uglier side of this issue.

In Orange County, you're talking about millions of people served by a couple of newspapers and no TV stations. I do want to say that in the five years that I have been personally writing about El Toro, local Orange County press has improved in many ways. Adam Elmahrek from Voice of OC, for example, has covered the gritty issues of the base. Others, particularly reporters with the newspaper in question, mostly dance around the subject, striking a little but always with kid gloves. I feel like a broken record but if they aren't exposing the reality of the situation, they are failures at their jobs, period.

The very best thing a person can do beyond following the stories (well over 100) available via our El Toro link, is to buy the new book by Robert O'Dowd and myself, BETRAYAL: Toxic Exposure of U.S. Marines, Murder and Government Cover-Up.

It is a 500 page account of the contamination of both MCAS El Toro, and Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The book is highly revealing and also features stories about Marine Corps life, and explores the mysterious death of Colonel Jim Sabow, who died officially from "suicide" after he blew the whistle on continuing drug shipments from Nicaragua, five years after the closing of the Iran-Contra hearings. Check it out, you won't be disappointed.

BETRAYAL can be purchased from Amazon’s Kindle

[1] Jan-24-2013: How much cash does the Great Park really have? - OC Register.

[2] Sept-21-2010: Irvine Great Park Inherits Contaminants Part II

[3] Nov-12-2012: Dioxin, TCE Drums, U-235 and El Toro's Panhandle

Original artwork for Salem-News.com, by Shelli Pruett, LA-based author of Quantum Leap Cartoons, featured at www.QLCartoons.com

______________________________________________________

Tim King in Iraq

Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer

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 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.

Tim 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

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 23+ countries and regions.

Tim specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide; and maintains that the label 'terrorist' is ill placed in many cases; specifically with the LTTE Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, where it was used as an excuse to slaughter people by the tens of thousands; and in Gaza, where a trapped population lives at the mercy of Israel's destructive military war crime grinder. At the center of all of this, Tim pays extremely close attention to the safety and welfare of journalists worldwide. You can write to Tim at this address: tim@salem-news.com. Visit Tim's Facebook page (facebook.com/TimKing.Reporter)




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