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Sep-15-2010 03:02printcomments

MCAS El Toro: Email Exchange Highlights Informational Roadblock

Proof that the committee overseeing the remediation of the environmental impacts from the closed El Toro Marine base, is simply not going to provide information to the public that it is legally bound to deliver.

Nicole Wright, a local mom of three who is very concerned over El Toro
Nicole Wright, a local mom of three who is very concerned over El Toro, talks with City Council Member Christina Shea after their Tuesday night meeting. Photo & video: Tim King

(IRVINE, Calif.) - The following is an email exchange between's Roger Butow and Bob Woodings, City Engineer in Lake Forest, California, regarding the reconfiguration of the old El Toro Marine base, which Irvine is attempting to transform into a park and residential neighborhood.

The old air station is highly contaminated according to the federal EPA which listed the base as an EPA 'Superfund site' in 1990, and while years have passed without much in the way of critical response, the city's plan to create the 'Great Park' on the old base is gaining increasing attention, much of it not so good for park proponents.

Roger and I attended the Irvine City Council meeting Tuesday where fiery moments flared between City Councilwoman Christina Shea, and Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang.

Shea is frustrated with her inability to access information privy only to Mayor Pro Tem Larry Agran and his staff.

She wants to know why he is invoking an attorney-client privilege in city dealings that are taking place out of public view; matters that she is not informed of. Shea says if she is denied information as a city council member, the public doesn't have a chance, and a lot is at stake.

Irvine City Councilors Dr. Steven Choi and Christina Shea talk about
their efforts to draw attention to the contamination of the El Toro Marine
base, slated to become a park.

She also is very curious about why the several year old plan to tear up the runways has never happened.

Public testimony was provided by Roger and Nicole Wright, a local mom who is extremely concerned about the contamination from the old base, and myself.

Mayor Pro Tem Larry Agran was suspiciously absent from the council meeting. Councilman Dr. Steven Choi, while extremely diplomatic, showed what he described as a genuine interest in making sure the remediation is complete and fair. He urged the council to be transparent, and agreed with Shea that any meeting on this subject should be conducted in full public view. The Mayor urged Shea to resolve the matter in a private meeting, she openly refused.

In this email exchange we learn that James Callian with the Department of the Navy, is failing to provide answers at this critical time to a number of highly pertinent issues. He was present at the council meeting and the information he offered, however supportive of the Great Park, does not address the issues.

As you will learn in the email below, the people behind the Great Park simply can't begin to answer a few simple questions. Believe me, we are in the very simple questions at this point, there is a long list to follow.

We recorded the meeting and will have a story up this week that fully examines Tuesday's council meeting, and the ongoing plight of MCAS El Toro. The meeting by the way, was attended by several reporters, we'll include details in our full report.

Here is the email exchange, beginning with Roger Butow's response:

Mayor Sukhee Kang, Mayor, City of Irvine


Here is proof of my allegation in testimony tonight that the RAB Committee is unable and unwilling to answer Team El Toro questions.
Read the email chain, these simple 5 questions I asked 3 weeks ago (bottom) were the same requested by me as I testified at the Irvine City Council tonight.

It also proves that Jim Callian had 3 weeks to respond and provided no response------To me this constitutes an intentional REFUSAL to respond to NGO or peer review inquiry.
If they have nothing to hide from the public, if they're so transparent, why didn't Jim respond soner.....He failed to even acknowledge at tonight's meeting that he had these questions for the past 3 weeks. In my opinion, though not sworn testimony in a court of law, this borders on perjury. 

Wouldn't you be suspicious Mr. Mayor? 
If there's nothing to hide, why are we being ignored, shunned, why are we being marginalized by Ms. Beth Krom as have unsubstantiated perceptions as opposed to professional expertise?

I look forward to sitting down with you, Mr Mayor, perhaps your staff can answer what the RAB entity will not.


Begin forwarded message:

From: "Woodings, Bob" <>
Date: September 14, 2010 3:21:40 PM PDT
Cc: "Callian, James T CIV OASN (I&E), BRAC PMO West" <>
Subject: RE: Response from Lake Forest City Engineer Bob Woodings

Hello Roger,
I received your reminder email moments ago.  Please accept my apology for my tardy response.  I was able to discuss your request for information with James Callian (Jim) on September 8, 2010.  Jim indicated his concurrence with me sending an interim reply, and further that he and his staff are reviewing your request and the information that they have available.  No immediate timeframe for Jim’s response was available.  As you can see, I have copied Jim with this response to keep him informed.  Nevertheless, please accept my responses to your questions:
       (1) When converted back in 1942, was any soil exported offsite by Irvine Ranch and/or US Government? It's hard to believe that ANY soil would have left, merely graded, compacted, then paved over---Which means when the runways are torn up all of those pesticides will become airborne or slough off into San Diego Creek if it rains?  I am not award of any information on this subject.  Perhaps Jim or his staff have access to further information, but 1942 was a long time ago.
       (2) I was told that there's a hold on the demolition/excavation and recycling of hardscape by Tierra Verde. Have they abandoned their effort/tossed in the towel, and if so who is now responsible? It looks like TV is only recycling building and tree removal/demolitions, stockpiling it but left uncovered off of Marine Way?  I am not award of any information on this subject.  I suggest you contact the City of Irvine or the Orange County Great Park regarding the status of contracts they may have approved with Tierra Verde.
       (3) I was also told that there might be a change of plans, that a lot of the hardscape is remaining in place? If true, what is the approximate size/tonage/weight of said leftovers that will remain in place, and their percentage of original target which I thought was about 3.5 million tons. Maybe it's just in limbo awaiting a new vendor or $$$?  Attached is a copy of the Great Park Western Sector Park Development Plan that was provided at the last RAB Meeting. This information was prepared by/for the Orange County Great Park, and it may or may not support a position regarding “a lot of the hardscape is remaining in place.”  I have no data regarding size/tonnage/weight of remaining hardscape or percentage to original targeted information to provide.
      (4) I noticed that the piles of recyclables aren't covered in that Southwest stockpile quadrant TV yard  ---I thought that the NPDES required sediment/contaminants be covered, especially during the defined rainy season (April 15--Oct. 15)....I know that the NPDES for SARWQCB (Region 8 Cal/EPA) is less stringent than the SDRWQCB (Region 9 Cal/EPA), but I didn't think that potential aerial broadcast/migration or rainy event drainage prescriptions would allow this stuff to be left uncovered indefinitely. Neither the hardscape or green waste is cleaned completely, so I got to wondering.  I am not familiar with uncovered piles of recyclables that you have noticed.  The City of Irvine has some jurisdiction over grading and stockpiles of materials and its staff would be your best contact information on reuse approvals and conditions.   
      (5) Who or what agency suggested that the IRWD Desalter be allowed to direct their .666 mgd of briny waste over to Los Alisos Water District, hence the eventual South OC Wastewater Authority owned/permitted to discharge from the Aliso Creek Ocean Outfall Pipe? This is still bugging me, I live and swim near that ACOOP (ocean outfall)---Plus why install that long pipe the Map reflects to transport it from one Cal/EPA jurisdiction to another, basically all the way across the base? Doesn't make sense, it's even a completely different watershed, a different water/san district (IRWD). I am also wondering if the planning describes a potential 40 year effort to pump/remediate the aquifer, that's a lot to burden on another JPA (SOCWA) NPDES that's also only in Region 9, not Region 8 Cal/EPA.  Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD) is your best source of information on the 2007 Irvine Desalter Project and its brine disposal approvals.  IRWD and Los Alisos Water District (LAWD) consolidated and reorganized prior to 2007 Irvine Desalter Project.  My understanding is that the former assets and liabilities of the former LAWD became IRWD’s assets and liabilities under the reorganization.  IRWD has made numerous presentations to RAB on its Desalter Project over the years.   I know you can do some on the research in the RAB Minutes regarding the status of the aquifer and projected timelines to clean-up; 30-years is in the ballpark based on my recollection.
Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions regarding this information.
Bob W.

From: Woodings, Bob 
Sent: Thursday, August 26, 2010 9:16 AM
To: 'Callian, James T CIV OASN (I&E), BRAC PMO West'
Subject: FW: Response from Lake Forest City Engineer Bob Woodings

Here is Roger Butow’s latest email.  I will give you a call later to discuss a response.

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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John Hartung September 16, 2010 4:00 am (Pacific time)

Tim, I have been looking at all the stories and other material, I thinks the city of Irvine should have a outside audit done. Some one must be lining thier pockets with the monies from the coffers. Like you and me with Bob O'Dowd and Jim Davis would say: The People shall lead and the leaders shall then follow" They Have alot of BIG PROBLEMS! John Hartung

Anonymous September 16, 2010 2:12 am (Pacific time)

It is extremely important for the real truth to emerge, that is starting to happen, keep going guys and kudos to Christina Shea and Steven Choi, worthy elected officials brave enough to speak up.

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