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El Toro, Hell Toro, or El Toxic ??
Tim King Salem-News.com
Former El Toro Marines John Uldrich, Tim King and Robert O'Dowd, all served in MWSG-37. Photo by Bonnie King Salem-News.com
(IRVINE, Calif.) - The ruins of a Marine base in Southern California are a silent reminder of the dishonest tactics of the city of Irvine, Lennar, and the Great Parks Corporation.
Their unrealistic plans to build a subdivision on the extremely contaminated El Toro Marine Corps Air Station will never come to pass, there are too many of us prepared to bring those plans to a close.
The city's plan to actually ignore the problem and behave as though they are on track, is an insult to injury for the sick and dead Marines of El Toro. The plan also dismisses the serious problems that threaten the area around the base, which a responsible city government should be concerned about.
It is important to simply remember that when big money is involved, standards change; people who take a stand eventually sit down (Unless they're Marines). Money poisons the minds of otherwise good people. Welcome to the mindset of the city of Irvine, which at last count had at least one hopeful city council member--but not enough.
The saga of this base's ill-timed and needless closure underscores the tragic treatment of the American veteran, and that is only the beginning of the El Toro story.
The Irvine Line
The bottom line is that there is not an ounce of truth to any reports of water around the base being non-toxic. It is completely toxic with a number of substances, and all of the information is published by U.S. Navy contractors and available to the public at two different libraries operated by the city of Irvine.
There are no excuses; they are jerking the public's chain, and people pay and pay, with their health and lives, only not the people who should: the sheltered members of the Irvine City Council, or the Great Parks Board, or Lennar Corp.
It has been clearly established through many sources, including the federal government itself, that the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Irvine is a deadly, cancer causing, hazardous waste arena.
Salem-News.com's Dr. Phil Leveque is a Forensic Toxicologist and a Professor of Pharmacology. He says the only proper thing to do with El Toro, "is to build a ten foot wall around it, and not let anyone set foot on it for the next thousand years."
Another former El Toro Marine, Roger Butow, Salem-News.com's 'Odd Man Out' covers the environmental beat. He lives about ten minutes from El Toro, in Laguna Beach. Just south of his home is where a pipe extends into the ocean and spits out the highly toxic UNTREATED TCE that is perpetually being sucked out of the ground at Hell Toro.
We've got this thing covered, and our members are getting in formation; we said it before and we will say it again, that these people picked the wrong crowd to mess with... Marines stick together, most Marines that is, and our group is a great example of that.
The "most Marines" part comes into play when you examine the Marine Corps and Navy campaign to fight their responsibility toward Marines.
Camp Lejeune in North Carolina has made countless Marines sick, and the place is still an extremely active base.
Now we have received word that both The Associated Press and McClatchy Newspapers have been "warned" by the Corps over their coverage of a benzene coverup that was recently exposed. It is easy to see how serious the Marine Corps is about this serious problem, they assigned a captain named Block to handle the press, and that is an insult to all of us.
Historic Environmental Disaster
El Toro, closed since 1999, is seething with chemicals once used to clean aircraft, then dumped into the grates.
It is in the groundwater, it's in the air, it permeates the very soul of the place. The Marines did it gradually, over several decades, and for the most part, they were in the dark as to the wreckage factor.
But the money grubbing developers and their interloper friends in Irvine's facade-based government have no such excuse... their ignorance is intentional. They only care about one thing, and that is profit.
Robert O'Dowd of Salem-News.com, put it this way: "Money's driving this train, there is no question about it, but you don't want a ticket on this train."
Those of us who involuntarily rode these rails, need to continue to work together to raise awareness; it is vitally important.
El Toro was designated a 'Super Fund Site' by the EPA years ago, but the worst assessment on record wouldn't slow Irvine and Lennar Corp., the homebuilder notorious for building subdivisions on government toxic waste sites that are purchased for pennies on the dollar, like El Toro, from pushing forward plans to build homes here.
They simply won't accept the fact that El Toro is totally uninhabitable. According to all factual data on the site, there is no truth to any claims of the area being safe in terms of groundwater.
This week the developers were able to get the Orange County Register to publish their false message about safe water again.
Several other former El Toro Marines and I have been documenting this contamination and writing about it for almost three years on Salem-News.com. The chemical TCE, trichloroethylene, was never meant to come into contact with human beings; it is deadly. Salem-News.com's John Uldrich with me and Robert O'Dowd at El Toro for this report.
John served at El Toro in the late 50's, Robert was there in the early 60's and I was in the same squadron in the early 1980's. John recalls some nasty contact with TCE:
"My exposure to TCE was, when the weather was right and they were ready to finish off the planes, they would take the F9F's and F-4's out, and after they had sandblasted them, they would high pressure wash them with TCE and there would be this big explosion of this sort of sickly green mist out there, and if you didn't back up you would get caught in it, and your uniform, whatever it was, would be pock-marked and you had to buy your replacement out of your own pocket."
For generation after generation, this took place. For Irvine, Lennar and the Great Parks Corporation to suggest that this is a safe place to live, is a lie of atrocious, criminal proportions.
"I wouldn't want to live here," Robert said.
"I certainly wouldn't want to buy any property here. It is an expensive area, but why would you want to buy property on a former EPA Superfund site and have your kids possibly exposed to this stuff? Can you imagine digging your swimming pool and digging up a 55 gallon drum of TCE? They know they were buried out here."
How many people are affected by El Toro? The numbers would surprise you. John points to the fact that chronic exposure, in the government parlance, is three months.
John believes that hundreds of thousands of people were chronically exposed to at least TCE, during the span of the base's history.
"And then the other thing to remember about TCE is that it attacks the autoimmune system, and when you get into the autoimmune system, you get into a whole tree; it branches out into, I think 95 different medical issues, so you have this really great spread of particular problems. Then of course, it is known to be a mutagen (induces genetic mutations). And so now you get into second and third and who knows how many generations, and they already know this with Agent Orange, that it is going into second and third generations. TCE does the same thing."
As Orange County media continues its old pattern of downplaying and even covering up the dangers of El Toro, Salem-News.com continues to accumulate email and contact information from hundreds of former El Toro Marines. Attorneys are stepping forward, research is taking place, and Irvine is completely wrong for assuming that this wicked problem is going away any time soon.
We continue to seek contact with Marines who served at El Toro, to provide information and to build our pool of known former El Toro Marines, so that there is a comprehensive data base that is totally separate from the troublesome U.S. government, which only seems concerned with avoiding liability, while tossing U.S. Marines and their families under the track.
Follow this link to all of our stories about the Marine Corps and 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. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines.
Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. You can send Tim an email at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org