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Dec-21-2010 20:20printcommentsVideo

Orange County Great Park: Preserving El Toro's Toxic Past

A tale of toxic hangars
Hey OC, check out what you get for your tax dollars...

MCAS El Toro
The now closed MCAS El Toro photos and video by Tim King

(IRVINE, Calif.) - It has been announced that plans to destroy the runway at the old El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Irvine, California are now in reverse.

This means the entire runway at this old base, along with these buildings, Hangars 296 and 297 in a section that formerly contained Marine Wing Support Group-37; the support element of the Marine Corp's Third Marine Air Wing, will remain right where they are.

The base was closed in 1999 and after a long battle, a decision was made to turn El Toro into a housing community and park for Orange County residents. The plan included a military cemetery and many other attractive points.

But then along came in 2008 with a report titled, El Toro Marines Should be Aware of Possible Contaminant Based Health Hazards, and from there we were off and rolling.

Since that time Robert O'Dowd, John Uldrich, Roger Butow, Dr. Phil Leveque and myself, have been coneinued researching and publishing reports about the seriously dangerous contamination of both El Toro and Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, a base that is still active. We have become friends and associates with other Marine Veteran activists across the nation and around the world.

While publishing over 120 reports on the bases since then, and gathering the contact information for hundreds of El Toro Marines in the process, we also bear in mind the fact that Orange County residents are still living with this problem, while the majority of El Toro Marines no longer live in the area.

The area you are looking at is a part of El Toro that Irvine Mayor pro-tem Larry Agran now says will remain, and it is interesting, because we have dubbed this part of the base 'El Toro's Ground Zero' because it is the single most toxic part of the old Marine base.

Agran has noted that the hangars will be reused for a cultural center and for a museum. These buildings are on the most dangerous part of the base that there is.

Now Irvine also says they will save 25% by utilizing existing buildings. Perhaps they should have thought about that before knocking this building down.

You see, the glaring problem for Irvine, Agran, developer Lennar Corp. which has a history of buying dangerous toxic military bases like Hunters Point in San Francisco, and turning them into housing subdivisions that rot, leak, crumble, and make their owners deadly sick in some cases, is that the jig is up.

This is a seriously dangerous place, and that information comes from Navy contractors. There is a literal pool of dangerous chemicals in the water below this base and it flows into and under the city of Irvine from here.

Marine Corps Air Station El Toro was designated an EPA Super Fund site many years ago. The contamination from decades of agricultural abuse were followed by half a century of military style environmental stewardship, which is something like not having any environmental stewardship, more like a free for all.

El Toro Marines in 1982. Photo by Tim King USMC

My job here was to refuel fighter jets and there isn't a day that passed that fuel wasn't poured onto the ground, even when just changing a connection on a fuel line.

The refueling points at El Toro were known as fuel farms and there were two that utilized an above ground fuel system called TAFDS- Tactical Aircraft Fuel Dispensing System.

That lost fuel that happened day and night during flight operations contained something called Benzene. This is one of the contaminants at El Toro and Camp Lejeune that has made people very sick, causing numerous types of cancer.

Another chief contaminant at El Toro is Trichloroethylene which was used to clean the jets here and at other Marine and Navy bases. In addition to cancer and lower stomach issues, TCE also causes liver failure.

There is a great deal to relate about this and you can find all of the stories about the different contaminants and also learn the latest moves from Irvine and developer Lennar and the Orange County 'Great Park' project by following the El Toro link on

The floor inside one old building that is now gone, was littered with remnants like playing cards, and spent shell cartridges from when the building was used as a police training center. Complete with the Patty Hearst lookalike poster on the wall. It seems this building is a good example of what Agran possibly should have kept, instead he and the Great Park Corp. already made short order of it.

Lessons are not likely to be learned any time soon, we'll keep you posted. Another media group following this is Voice of OC. Check Adam Elmakrek's report about the great scale back: (see: The Great Scale-Back Adam Elmahrek - Voice of OC)

Also recent and relevant:

Dec-21-2010 : Orange County Great Park to use Radium Contaminated Hangar Robert O'Dowd

Dec-20-2010: Orange County Great Park Update: Don't Test Don't Tell Roger Butow 'Odd Man Out'

Tim King: Editor and Writer

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. Tim has several years of experience in network affiliate news TV stations, having worked as a reporter and photographer at NBC, ABC and FOX stations in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Serving the community in very real terms, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. As News Editor, Tim among other things, is responsible for publishing the original content of 65 writers. He reminds viewers that emails are easily missed and urges those trying to reach him, to please send a second email if the first goes unanswered. You can send Tim an email at this address:

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Roger von Bütow December 22, 2010 4:06 pm (Pacific time)

Almost forgot: The food at the base was washed and cooked in the contaminated water. Combine the water quality impacts to the human system with the air pollutants that weren't regulated due to military use of the site and you get the bigger picture. It's bordering on a miracle that any of us that served there for more than a brief period are even alive.

Roger von Bütow December 22, 2010 11:04 am (Pacific time)

My deepest sympathy to all MOMs, to all of the Marines, the Navy personnel and the families of the servicemen and civilian vendors who drank this caca, swam in it at the pools or bathed in it.....I had my 1st round with lymphoma 14 years ago, my 2nd nearly 2 years ago, had nodes removed and chemo both times, I'm just getting my mojo back myself. I never went after the VA because I already knew that like a cheating spouse or abusive parent, both the VA and EPA's mantra is "Deny Deny Deny." Who knows how many were like me, it took a few years but eventually like a time bomb and it compromised my system.

a mother December 22, 2010 1:17 am (Pacific time)

Who would have ever thought the health issues 5 of my children (born 1976 - 1983) have endured were related to this El Toro base. Their Marine father drank the water and ate the produce. Enough said.

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