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Deadly Toxic Chemicals From Marine Base Threaten Irvine Neighborhoods (VIDEO REPORT)Tim King Salem-News.com
A legacy of deadly, hazardous waste from a closed Marine air base is quietly invading parts of Orange County, California. This is Part 3 in a continuing series of video reports on Salem-News.com.
(IRVINE, Calif.) - Toxic waste from the now-closed El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Irvine is seeping underground into one of the richest neighborhoods in southern California, putting people at risk.
TCE is a degreasing chemical that the Marines used in the maintenance of jet fighter squadrons at El Toro.
Trichloroethylene is comprised of three types of chlorine and other chemicals. Toxicologist, Dr. Phillip Leveque of Oregon, says TCE manufacturers like Dow Chemicals knew all along how extremely dangerous TCE was to people, yet they failed to issue proper warnings. Leveque had one of the first TCE court cases in America. He represented the family of a man who died after using TCE for 18 months as a floor cleaner.
Researcher Mike Jansen explained the relationship of the underground TCE plume to the base, and the Irvine, California neighborhoods that now sit on top of it, using an official Navy publication that tells the story of the base and neighborhood contamination.
"This is the area right here where the majority of the TCE was used, right in this area. And Weston, is the Navy contractor that put this together."
As he explains, Jansen points to an overview of the TCE plume that local government officials in Irvine and Orange County all too often seem to ignore.
"This is the smoking gun" Jansen said, motioning to the massive plume documented by the Navy. Concentrations outside the base property appear to even the novice eye, as alarming.
"As of Oct 2007, this here is the border of the base, this is the plume extending off the base, different levels of TCE, five times, ten times, its all right here and of course on base its really worse."
El Toro was the Marine Corp’s flagship air base for several generations. Today, for the most part, El Toro is a ghost town of abandoned hangars and buildings. I have been on the base for the last several days gathering information about the toxic contamination, and you do not have to look very far to see clear signs of the federal government’s acknowledgment of it.
But when you talk to officials in Irvine, and at the Irvine Ranch Water District about the TCE contamination, people are on guard and have very little to offer about the contamination and the serious health risks to residents.
The contaminated wells at El Toro were closed down in 1969 or 1970. That is when the base went to municipal water. The actual water contamination was likely halted as a result, but the damage was done to the groundwater tables.
Beth Beeman with the Irvine Water District, confirmed that the base saw a change in the water delivery system. This is the only statement she was prepared to release.
"We provide municipal water service to the areas here. We are a form of local government. As far as we can recollect, back in 1969 we executed a contract with the Department of the Navy for water services for the El Toro Marine Air Station."
Orange County resident Bill Turner has researched the TCE plume for several years. "I think it is important that the Irvine Ranch Water District be honest and forthright about what the real issues are over TCE in this area."
Turner says transparency is the only answer, and answers in general are lacking.
"They should open it up to a major public, open meeting, and they should have all of their experts there to answer all of the questions that people have. And I have asked them questions in the past and they referred me to other people. So what we really need is the Irvine Water District and all of the other entities in this area that have authority over these water issues be open to the public."
This is a continuing series; please stay tuned to Salem-News.com for our upcoming reports on trichloroethylene contamination at El Toro and in Irvine, California.
TCE causes intestinal disorders, mutations and several types of cancer.
Dr. Phil Leveque says prolonged contact with TCE will also cause liver failure. All Marines who served at El Toro need to be aware of the potential, related health hazards, along with Marine Corps family members, and civilian employees of El Toro.
Bill Turner says testing is the most important thing that is not being done at this point, in places like Irvine's Woodbridge neighborhood, located a few miles away from the Marine base.
"It's right in the center of a gigantic plume of trichloroethylene that has migrated from El Toro and there are two and three million dollar homes in this area and I wonder if the people who bought these houses were told before they bought these houses, that they are right over a major plume of trichloroethylene."
Turner says it is dangerous, and there is another thing that people need to know and understand.
"Have their houses been tested for TCE vapor intrusion? I don't think any of these houses have. We can't find any officials that will tell us whether or not the houses have been tested for TCE vapor intrusion, and this could be a real significant health issue for people later on in their lives."
HERE IS PART THREE IN TIM KING'S CONTINUING VIDEO SERIES ON THE TCE CONTAMINATION AT THE FORMER EL TORO MARINE CORPS AIR STATION, WHERE TIM WAS STATIONED AS A U.S. MARINE BETWEEN 1981 AND 1983, COURTESY OF YOUTUBE:
These are all related Salem-News.com reports on TCE:
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 Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Salem-News.com 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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