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May-15-2012 16:18printcomments

Cleanup for North Orange County Toxic Plume Could Cost $200 Million

A nation bent on military buildup that does not relent when it can, is truly one of the most dangerous.
To see this image full size, visit this OC Science article by Pat Brennan, published by OC Register

(ANAHEIM, CA) - When it comes to environmental contamination in Orange County, California, Oregon-based typically sticks to the south county eyesore that was once a Marine fighter base, the old MCAS El Toro. From this former military installation, flow underwater 'plumes' of contamination, courtesy of the disposal practices that typify the history of the nation's military industrial complex- a term coined ironically, by the famous Marine General Smedley Butler.

Now, thanks to an article by Pat Brennan, published yesterday by the Orange County Register, we get the dirty details on another plume, this one in north Orange County, that actually contaminates eight square miles of groundwater in the Anaheim area.

    An eight-square-mile plume of toxic contamination moving slowly through northern Orange County groundwater could take decades to clean up -- with costs running as high as $200 million.

    And a trial now under way in an Orange County courtroom could decide who gets to pick up the tab.

    The main courtroom combatants are the Orange County Water District, which has already begun what will likely be one of the longest, costliest cleanups in county history, and Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., accused of contributing a significant amount of the contamination during 30 years of industrial operations in Anaheim.

(see: Courtroom conflict: $200 million toxic plume - OC Register)

This is a very different scenario from the south county threat; MCAS El Toro's seeping chemical waste directly drains to and impairs the Ecological Reserve in Upper Newport Bay. But Irvine, the Irvine Company, Great Parks Corp., the Irvine Ranch Water District; all work with each other rather than against each other. There is plenty in common though, it is all about VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds) that turn readily from liquid to gas -- and several are known carcinogens. They bring cancer, birth defects and all sorts of less than lovely things to those they contact.

The OC Register article states:

    The names of the contaminants, remnants of degreasing operations at Northrop and other sites, are an environmental alphabet soup, a few with numbers attached: TCE, PCE, TCA, 1-DCA and others.

    The contamination began to filter slowly into groundwater beneath Anaheim and Fullerton in the 1950s; Northrop and many other businesses named in the case, including Fender Guitar, closed down their operations in the area by the mid-1980s, water district officials said.

It is true that ignorance is one of the most direct culprits in this destruction of clean groundwater; however a nation bent on military buildup that does not relent when it can, is truly one of the most dangerous. It is sad that the people of Southern California have to pay the price. Special thanks to our Laguna Beach-based Writer, Odd Man Out Roger Butow.


Tim King in 2008, covering the Iraq War

Tim King: 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'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.

Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from The Associated Press the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs, Electronic Media Association and The Red Cross In a personal capacity, Tim has written 2,026 articles as of March 2012 for since the new format designed by Matt Lintz was launched in December, 2005.

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Tim specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide with an emphasis on Palestine and Sri Lanka, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the U.S. Marines. You can write to Tim at this address: Visit Tim's Facebook page (

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