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Apr-23-2010 05:02printcommentsVideo

El Toxic Hell Toro Part Two:
A Death Sentence for Marines and School Kids?

MCAS El Toro's history includes a severe impact on the children and educators of the former El Toro School.

MCAS El Toro School
Photos and video by Tim King

(IRVINE, Calif.) - A number of Marines are now sick and dying from their contact with toxins at MCAS El Toro, such as TCE (trichloroethylene) a chemical used to clean jet fighters; but Marines aren't the only victims.

School children, whose small bodies are less resistant to contamination with deadly pollutants, may have even less of a chance of weathering this storm in otherwise sunny Orange County.

Robert O'Dowd, like myself and John Uldrich, is a former El Toro Marine. We all served in the same squadron under Marine Wing Support Group 37. He talked about a former El Toro School Teacher named LouAnn Silva who has shared stories about the losses of people who attended and worked at the school.

"She says many teachers died, young teachers, who shouldn't have died that young from cancer, and children dying from leukemia," Robert said.

"Now leukemia has that TCE label tag, contamination for children. So that's a possibility for a base that has TCE in the groundwater and soil."

LouAnn Silva and I attempted to get inside the old school where she taught. We approached an Irvine Police officer who guards the gate to see if she could let us in.

This Irvine officer occupies the
spot where the Marines once
stood, at toxic El Toro; Marines die
of cancer but the cycle repeats

LouAnn told the officer, "Yeah, lots of teachers died" and explained how cancer and leukemia were the real killers.

Like the Marines who manned the gate before, this officer is unknowingly being exposed to hazardous toxic chemicals, but she seemed to know nothing of it.

John Uldrich has heard the stories about teachers having to come in early each morning to remove layers of soot from the classrooms.

"When they came in the morning, they had to wipe off the tables, the chairs because the JP fuels that were being exhausted would just discolor everything on the inside, and as Bob said we're talking about chemicals, and the technical phrase is VOC's - volatile organic compounds." report on the MCAS El Toro School in Irvine by Tim King

John says it is important to remember that jet fuel is a volatile organic compound, and it too has health implications.

"So can you imagine, kids that were exposed to this day in and day out, right here in a little school house, my God, what are they suffering from now?"

And the problem is far from contained, the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station was the epitome of a transient community.

People would be here for a year or two, today everyone is somewhere else.

That means the El Toro DNA thumbprint exists within people who have never seen the place, but are descended from someone who had been based here, or had worked here.

Earlier this week we reported about how this massive contamination zone is slated to become a park and housing community.

For that mad and irresponsible plan, you can thank the city of Irvine, homebuilder Lennar Corp and the Great Parks Corporation. But John Uldrich says the Corps itself can't duck responsibility, and yet they do try.

We're constantly adding to the number of people we are in contact with who are somehow affected by or affiliated with El Toro. Please send an email to, the address is below.

Here is a list of some of the articles that have been generated on the contamination of the former Marine Base at El Toro and at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina:

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'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, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. You can send Tim an email at this address:



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