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Nov-23-2008 18:41printcomments

Marine Veterans Lead Petition Drive

El Toro Marine Air Station veterans are collecting signatures for a petition to President Elect Obama and Congress to require the DOD to notify Marine and Navy veterans of El Toro and other military bases on the EPA Superfund list of the risks of exposure and health effects to contaminants. Please help the Marines by signing the Petition.
Images of El Toro as it exists today.
Photos by Tim King

(SOMERDALE, N.J.) - The Defense Department has 1,400 military sites contaminated with trichlorothylene (TCE). Of the 1,255 EPA Superfund sites, the Pentagon owns 129, the most of any entity. There is no requirement for the government to notify veterans and their dependents of exposure to TCE and other toxic chemicals. El Toro veterans petition President Elect Obama and Congress to require notification.

There is no legal requirement for the Department of Defense to notify veterans of the risk of exposure to toxic chemicals and the health effects. In fact, the Air Force reported in 2003 that the Defense Department had over 1,400 military sites contaminated with trichloroethylene (TCE). With the exception of Camp Lejeune, DOD has not notified any veteran of their possible exposure to contaminants at any of the bases on the EPA Superfund list. The 2008 Defense Authorization Act required the Navy and Marine Corps to notify Camp Lejeune veterans of the trichloroethylene (TCE) contamination of base wells.

Former Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) El Toro, once the premier Marine Corps air base, is one of the sites contaminated with TCE. In June 2007, The Marine Corps Times reported 22 bases with TCE water contaminations, including Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Barstow, CA, March Air Force Base, Riverside, CA and Mather Air Force Base, Mather, CA. The Washington Post reported 129 of the 1,255 EPA Superfund sites owned by the Pentagon. (see: Marine Corps Times: Bases with reported TCE water contamination and Washington Post: Pentagon Fights EPA On Pollution Cleanupl)

El Toro veterans and their dependents are at risk for exposure to TCE, tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and other contaminants found in the soil and groundwater of the former base. (see: Salem-News: TCE Expert Talks With Former El Toro Marine About Toxic Waste)

A number of El Toro veterans and dependents reported cancer and other illnesses linked to TCE/PCE exposure. Exposure to chemical toxins can occur from ingestion (drinking contaminated water), dermal contact, and inhalation.

Most El Toro veterans and their dependents have no idea of their risk of exposure to toxic chemicals from living and working on the base. Most do not live in nearby Orange County or in California and would never have heard that El Toro was placed on the EPA Superfund list. El Toro was commissioned in March 1943 and closed in July 1999. Over these 56 years, thousands of Marines were stationed at this southern California oasis. Those that are still alive are geographically dispersed over the entire country.

TCE contamination of the drinking water at Camp Lejeune, another Marine Corps base, required special legislation for the Navy and Marine Corps to notify Camp Lejeune veterans, dependents, and civilian workers.

The defense authorization bill for 2008 included a provision supported by Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina to “require the Secretary of the Navy to directly notify Marines, dependents and civilian employees who were assigned at Camp Lejeune between 1958 and 1987 that they were exposed to harmful chemicals in the installation’s water system. The last contaminated wells were closed in 1987, but the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has found that babies exposed in utero to the drinking water developed leukemia and other cancers, as well as birth defects, such as spina bifida and cleft palate.” (see: Dole Measures Included in Defense Bill)

The Agency for Toxic Disease and Substances (ATSDR), responsible for public health assessments of EPA Superfund sites, reported that TCE and PCE are highly toxic and if not handled and disposed of properly can cause nervous system effects, kidney, liver and lung damage, abnormal heartbeat, coma, and possibly death. Occupational exposure to TCE also has been associated with adult cancers such as kidney cancer, liver and biliary cancer, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. TCE in drinking water has been linked to childhood leukemia. (see U.S. Energy and Commerce: ATSDR’s Activities at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune)

The reality is that unless the veterans or the dependents know of the contaminants and the health effects of exposure, it’s very unlikely that they will ever “connect the dots of their illnesses” to military service. Unlike the auto executives who flew into Washington last week asking for money to bail out their companies, most veterans and dependents are not interested in getting on the government’s dole. But, it sure would be helpful to them and their doctors to know the causes of their illnesses.

There shouldn’t be a need for special legislation for the government to do the right thing, but apparently there is. Earlier this month, a few El Toro veterans started to collect signatures for a petition to President Elect Obama and Congress to require the DOD to notify Marine and Navy veterans of El Toro and other military bases on the EPA Superfund list of the risks of exposure and health effects to contaminants. Please help the Marines by signing the Petition located here:

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fermin alarcon March 11, 2012 4:47 am (Pacific time)


Van December 13, 2008 12:05 pm (Pacific time)

In 1987 the EPA regulated TCE at 5 ppb. Before that, early 80's the amount the airforce deemed acceptable was 250ppb. The military started looking into this contamination in 1978. Before the EPA came into existence it would be anybodies guess as to high was too high. I know on Guam you could taste, see and smell a solvent in the drinking water. ATSDR has said the amount of TCE would have to have been 1,000,000ppb.

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