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Jul-15-2008 18:15printcomments

In-Depth Look at El Toro Marine Base TCE Contamination Begins Next Week

Time to get to the bottom of a big environmental mess involving a former Marine Corps base in Southern California.

Friends clowning around on the flightline at MCAS El Toro in 1982.  None knew that the ground they walked on and the water beneath it was poison.  Photo by Tim King USMC
Aircraft like this at El Toro were cleaned with a chemical degreaser called TCE, made by DuPont, that was washed straight into the base water system. Photo: home.inreach.com

(SALEM, Ore.) - For years, a chemical degreaser called Trichlorethylene, or TCE for short, was used to clean fighter jets at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Southern California. The U.S. government is notorious for poor environmental practices, and this ranks among its most profound; as generation after generation of Marines were exposed to the toxic and lethal nature of TCE, a product primarily manufactured by DOW Chemicals.

Tim King as an 18-year old
Marine in September, 1981

Various squadrons on the base used the deadly degreaser and all of the runoff was hosed away down the flightline and into the water basins.

The base of the 'TCE plume' as it is called, flowed right through the Marine Wing Support Group-37 area. This is where I spent the majority of a three year enlistment as a Marine; totally oblivious to the condition of the water and the ground that we worked on every day.

One of my sons had a collapsed bowel at the age of four months, it almost killed him. His mother and I lived in El Toro base housing during that pregnancy. It took more than twenty years for me to learn that TCE often attacks this region of the human body.

Another child possibly affected, my stepson was born with an enlarged epiglottis, that flap that keeps food from going into your lungs, which was the size of an unhealthy 40-year old man's. His mother was living at El Toro throughout her pregnancy. That type of abnormality is another common effect of TCE contamination. It is called a mutation. I'm sure you get the idea. It is possible that a connection does not exist, but it is also possible that one does.

Stories out of Camp Lejeune involve thousands of deaths; many were stillborn. The number of people potentially affected is too large to remain quiet, particularly in this new age of mass communication.

I am very concerned about all of the Marines who served at El Toro, all of their family members and the base civilian employees. I am also worried about the people who live near the base today, and about low income housing projects that are allegedly being built in the contaminated sections of the former base at the time of this article.

El Toro was named an EPA "Super Site" and what happened there with TCE contaminated water is not a secret, really, but the government is not taking the appropriate steps to bring it under control.

While the Navy and Marine Corps try to pass the blame, the story of Camp Lejeune is more known, and it is gaining a foothold on the American conscience as more and more news agencies pay attention to the movement that has begun over it.

Through an association of former Marines including Robert O'Dowd from mwsg37.com, John Ulrich and several others, we are bringing together the resources to get this story in front of every American. For now, a few hundred dollars ($600 is the goal) will cover my travel expenses next week for round one. There is much to be done, and this effort will likely end up taking on the form of a full length television documentary. We are moving forward.

If you want to help, use the PayPal button above.

You can also send a check to:
Tim King
P.O. Box 5238
Salem, Oregon 97304

Watch for the reports on El Toro next week on Salem-News.com. Those interested in working with us on the documentary should send an email to Tim King; my address is at the bottom of this story.

These are all related Salem-News.com reports on TCE:

Federal Agency Money Bickering Could Spell Doom for Sick Marines

Marine Who Lost Child From Contamination at Camp Lejeune will Appear in Washington

Marine Death Camp: Camp Lejeune Trichlorethylene - the Culprit

El Toro Marines Should be Aware of Possible Contaminant Based Health Hazards

Former Marine Testifies Over Deadly Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune


Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer

Al Franken and Tim King in Afghanistan

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.

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.

The notorious list comprising Tim's ancestors includes Pedro de Alvarado, the lieutenant of Hernando Cortez of Spain; King Phillip IV, Eleanor of Aquitaine and William the Conqueror. Perhaps most interestingly, King John; the dark force in the story Robin Hood, and also the last Spanish governor of California, a real person fictionalized as the arch rival of the character in Zorro, are in reality both Tim's multiple-great grandfathers.

Tim at his family ranch in Chino, California.

Others include a Confederate officer in the U.S. Civil War and a decorated 'hero' of the Mexican-American War and the so-called 'Indian Wars'. In fact on the east coast, Tim's lineage with the Slaughter and King families, pre-dates the Mayflower and several members of his family were soldiers in the Revolutionary War. He says his family's past; some of which is very dark; some quite chivalrous, presents a certain responsibility, and that in part drives his desire to see that people in today's world are not exploited or allowed to suffer in silence as victims of Human Rights violations, as people of previous times were.

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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Anonymous September 19, 2014 10:51 am (Pacific time)

WAS AT EL TORO AS A MP 82 TO 84 ALSO AT FT. MCELLEN ARMY BASE!! DEVELOPED PROSTATE CANCER AT 46! ALSO HEAD SORES ALL OVER MY HEAD AT 33!!


Snaproll August 15, 2012 12:12 pm (Pacific time)

I served in the AF from 69 to 73 and used TCE in my work. I filed a claim for prostate cancer in 2010 attributed to Occupational TCE exposure. Just awarded 60% last week after a two year wait with the VA. Any vet who used TCE and ends up with cancer should file for service connection.


Charlie Linton August 9, 2012 10:46 am (Pacific time)

Thanks for the heads up story about El Tore. I was stationed the on my first duty station in November of 1967.I was with Wing Equiptment Repair Squadron 37.I got my orders to go to Viet Nam in May of 1968.It sure dont look the same .I've had alot of medical problems .thanks again...

Tim King: Thanks for writing Charlie, it has been a heck of a thing to learn the other side of our old base, if you were interested, the El Toro tag below will lead to many more stories about the old base, thanks for writing, Semper FI.


Deltamike March 20, 2012 10:33 pm (Pacific time)

I was stationed at Tustin 83-87. I remember being "volunteered" for a job of disposing oil drums filled with who knows what- one evening. I remember the sgt. stating the base was going to be inspected and we had to dispose of them. We were wearing goggles and long latex gloves. I remember getting splashed in the face. A few days later, my skin boiled up, massive head ache. Still have the scars to prove it.And its in my medical records.

Tim King: Damn Mike, that is powerful, if you're into letting me take this to the next step, please write to me at  tim@salem-news.com Semper fi


NKLG8R January 14, 2011 6:47 pm (Pacific time)

I just found out about the problems at El Toro. I was stationed there from 85 to 88, I was a heavy equipment operator and ate alot of El Toro dust when we tore up and re graded the football field. I spent many hours operating a crane at the Mech. hangars. I have un explainable liver disease, and many dijestive problems. I know that there have to be many more out there with similar problems, and if we all shout togather someone has to hear.

Tim King: Thanks for writing, I was there until '83 at MWSG-37.  Sorry to hear about your illness, feel free to get in touch and anything we can share is yours.  My email is tim@salem-news.com Semper fi!


Bob O'Dowd July 16, 2008 9:44 am (Pacific time)

God's speed, Tim.

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©2017 Salem-News.com. All opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Salem-News.com.


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