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Jul-26-2008 18:00printcommentsVideo

Irvine, California Threatened by Contaminated Water From El Toro Marine Base (VIDEO REPORT)

What happens when wealthy Republicans suddenly find out that the home they invested so much in, could be sitting on top of one of the most dangerous, polluted places in the nation?
Shattered window in an old jet fighter squadron building
Photo and video by Tim King

(IRVINE, Calif.) - A number of government agencies deny that the city of Irvine has big, big problems from TCE, Trichloroethylene; a toxic chemical used in the maintenance of Marine Corps jet fighters at the former at the Marine Corps Air Station. They reject the notion that the TCE has penetrated the groundwater here and as a result, is a serious health hazard for residents in Irvine, California.

But large amounts of evidence tell another story.

Reports from the U.S. Navy indicate that TCE contamination stemming from the Marine base at El Toro is in fact a huge issue in this part of Orange County.

The El Toro Marine Corps Air station was built during WWII and was closed in 1999 under BRAC; the Base Realignment and Closure process, enacted by the U.S. government as an effort to save money during the Reagan years.

As the process to close the base and establish a public park under the “Great Parks Corporation” moved forward, several Orange County residents began paying increasing attention to inconsistencies and what they now call outright fabrications by the various agencies that all stood to make a profit from the deal.

The same group maintains the position that almost nothing is being done to let the public in this high dollar community know what types of serious health conditions they could eventually face from TCE, and other hazardous chemicals moving through the water table here.

Orange County residents Bill Turner and Mike Jansen, have been working behind the scenes for years, gathering evidence that tells a story of encroaching environmental devastation in one of America's richest neighborhoods. The Woodbridge area in Irvine is built among beautiful lakes and walking paths. Many homes here are in the several thousand dollar range.

Encroachment is a word that has been used a lot around this area. Orange County, California is comprised of people with a lot of money, and it is traditionally considered a strong, conservative and Republican area. This is not the type of community in American that generally deals with environmental sneak punches. We've all heard of poorer communities being overlooked or taken advantage of, and there is the nuclear waste issue that the U.S. government wants to dump at Yucca Mountain, a Native American community. But what happens when wealthy Republicans suddenly find out that the home they invested so much in, could be sitting on top of one of the most dangerous, polluted places in the nation?

It just might get interesting; that would be my bet.

To add to the tension and disagreements, a large number of people who live here say the base never should have been closed in the first place. After the closure was certain, residents splintered into groups that both opposed and supported using the former air station as a new airport for Orange County. All the while, responsibility seemed to take a back seat to the pursuit of the dollar.

Bill Turner says several things have to take place, beginning with the mass notification of residents in this area. The other nagging problem is the fact that most Marines who served here are totally in the dark about the contamination they once lived and worked around.

The worst contamination site on the base at El Toro is the former Marine Wing Support Group area, known as MWSG-37. This is where I was stationed as a Marine in the early 1980’s.

In addition to the Marines and others who lived and worked at the Marine base, the TCE contamination at El Toro affects many people today because it has spread many miles from El Toro. The underground TCE plume, accompanied by a perchlorate plume, reaches into some of Irvine’s most expensive neighborhoods. Yet most residents are unaware. Proof of all of this is available right in the center of Irvine, at a public library.

Mike Jansen says it is all a matter of just looking at the facts. "The information is all backed up and published by the U.S. navy and then placed in the public library here in Irvine and at the El Toro records office. All people have to do is open an eye to see, and it all happened over one simple thing: money.

The problems stemming from the toxic water at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station are getting worse by the day, as the TCE plume moves three feet further into Orange County every day. It is important for Marines and former Marines to be aware of, as well as their family members and former civilian base employees. Residents in other parts of Orange County need to be aware also. TCE causes cancer and many other health problems.

This report was slated to be published July 24th 2007; it has been delayed from significant technical problems. Today in a last ditch effort to save this particular video report, we were able to render this low quality version. This video report brought to you courtesy of YouTube, is part two in our ongoing series on TCE contamination and the resulting toxic and hazardous chemical pollution it left behind, at the closed El Toro Marine base and in neighborhoods of Irvine, California.



Here are the other installments in this series on El Toro:

Memories of the El Toro Marine Air Base: a Modern Day Ghost Town (SLIDESHOW)

Deadly Toxic Chemicals From Marine Base Threaten Irvine Neighborhoods (VIDEO REPORT)

El Toro Water Contamination Reports Will Continue

Sick Marines and Contaminated Water: Questions Surround El Toro Marine Air Base (VIDEO REPORT)

These are all related 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 is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. Today, in addition to his role as a war correspondent in Afghanistan where he spent the winter of 2006/07, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor. is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website, affiliated with Google News and several other major search engines and news aggregators. Tim's coverage from Iraq that was set to begin in April has been delayed and may not take place until August, 2008. You can send Tim an email at this address:

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Sue June 2, 2014 10:22 pm (Pacific time)

Thank you to for writing and publishing this. The Woodbridge community is all hushed up about this; no one speaks of it obviously because property values would plummet and the homes can cost over a million dollars. Unfortunately, property values have become more important than the value of human health and lives. I've lived here since 2006,and whether it's available as a report in the library or not, I just found out about this in 2014 from your articles and very few others. Since my family has been sick since moving to Woodbridge, I now know why. Thank you for your articles about this. I cannot thank you enough. :)

Margo French January 30, 2010 11:05 am (Pacific time)

I lived in Laguna Niguel when the toxic plume was discovered. I e-mailed you about a Training Center proposed at Ruthsburg, MD. where ammunitions will be used to train security forces from all over the country - probably trained by Blackwater. Residents are up i arms fighting this site. I too came down with cancer during that time, Breast Cancer. I am extremely concerned about this same type of toxic plume developing in our high water table creating a health and environmental catastrophy for the entire Eastern Shore. Do you have a list of every toxin found in the plume in Irvine. I am writing an article exposing this danger for the Eastern Shore and would appreciate any advice and information you may have. This site proposal is a catastrophy waiting to happen. I hope Bob O'Dowd has survived - that is absolutely shocking.

cathy July 29, 2008 9:39 am (Pacific time)

Yucca Mountain is not on a Native American community. Part of it is on the Nevada Test Site and there is no Indian reservation there. Get your facts straight before you print them.

Tim King: Well there sure was an uproar from the Native American community over Yucca Mountain over this.  I worked for the NBC station in Vegas at the time.  Wikipedia published this, "There has also been a Western Shoshone lawsuit filed, challenging the United States' right to store nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain." 

Bob O'Dowd July 27, 2008 6:51 am (Pacific time)

EPA reported that the mass of TCE at El Toro originated in the two huge hangars of MWSG-37 (EPA’s Site 24) where much of the degreasing and other industrial activity took place: “The chemicals of concern at Site 24 are VOCs. VOCs are present in soil and groundwater. VOCs reported to be present at the site include TCE, PCE, 1,1-dichloroethene (DCE), and carbon tetrachloride. The horizontal and vertical extent of VOCs in the vadose zone was characterized using soil and soil gas sampling and analysis. This characterization showed that the primary VOC source is present beneath Buildings 296 and 297…the highest concentrations occur near the water table. VOCs in the area of Buildings 296 and 297 extend to groundwater directly beneath those buildings.” I worked and slept on duty watch as a young Marine in Bldg. 296 in the 1960s. I was operated on for stage 2/3 bladder cancer in 2005. None of my blood relatives has had bladder cancer. I do not smoke or drink alcohol. Inhalation and ingestion are important routes of exposure for both TCE and PCE. Both chemicals are listed in the 11th Report on Carcinogens from the National Toxicology Program as reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens. My urologist believes that my service at El Toro caused the bladder cancer. Neither the Navy nor the Marine Corps notified me or any other veteran that El Toro was an EPA Superfund site and the health effects of TCE/PCE exposure. To say that I’m deeply disappointed in my government would be an understatement.

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