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Mar-30-2009 14:52printcomments

California Law Firm Seeks Injured El Toro Veterans & Workers

There’s no question that this is the right thing to do for those who served our county honorably.

El Toro bull and TCE sign image

(IRVINE, Calif.) - A legal review and evaluation of possible injuries and deaths related to exposure to TCE/PCE at former MCAS El Toro is underway by a Southern California law firm. There is no cost for the review or commitment for legal representation. Veterans, dependents, and civilian workers are encouraged to contact the law firm.

A trichloroethylene (TCE) toxic plume was discovered in 1985 off of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) El Toro, California. El Toro was placed on the EPA Superfund list in 1990, closed in July 1999, and most of the land sold at a public auction in 2005.

Once the Marine Corps’ premier air station, the former base sits deserted, a number of building torn down, part of the former base leased to Cal State Fullerton for classes, buildings demolished, most of the runways, taxiways and aprons still in tack, while according to the OC Register, Lennar has spent the “the last few months demolishing and removing existing El Toro structures to make way for grading.” (See:

Two huge maintenance hangars in the industrial portion of the base were found to be the source of the toxic plume spreading off the base. Multiple contaminants were found on base near landfills, including radionuclides (Uranium 235, Radium 226 and Radium 228).

A radium 226 paint room and administrative office space in Hangar 296 were contaminated with radium. The radium 226 paint room was used decades ago to make a fluorescent paint for aircraft gauges and instruments. Some of the radium waste wound up in base landfills. The administrative space above the radium paint room was once occupied by the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing’s Supply Support Division. The California Department of Public Health, citing concerns over the radiological survey conducted by the Navy, has not released this hangar for unrestricted use, even though the Navy completed a “final” radiological report in 2002.

As is the case with the other 132 military bases on the EPA Superfund list, no veteran, dependent or civilian employee has been notified of their possible exposure to contaminants and the health effects.

El Toro’s Laundry List of Contaminants

EPA lists multiple Contaminants of Concern for El Toro on their internet site. According to EPA: “COCs are the chemical substances found at the site that the EPA has determined pose an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment. These are the substances that are addressed by cleanup actions at the site. Identifying COCs is a process where the EPA identifies people and ecological resources that could be exposed to contamination found at the site, determines the amount and type of contaminants present, and identifies the possible negative human health or ecological effects that could result from contact with the contaminants.” (See:

For each COC, the EPA internet site links the reader to the health effects identified by the Agency for Toxic Substances Registry (ATSDR). ATSDR under the Department of Health and Human Services, is responsible for performing for performing public health assessments of EPA Superfund sites.

Trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE) are two toxic chemicals found in the base’s the soil and groundwater. TCE and PCE are both excellent cleaning solvents. TCE was used at El Toro for decades to degrease aircraft parts and for other applications. PCE was used as a metal degreaser and dry cleaning solvent in the base drying cleaning facility in the industrial portion of the base, now repository of the administrative records supporting the Navy’s clean-up activities.

What are the health effects of TCE/PCE exposure?

ATSDR reported a number of health problems in children who were exposed in the womb from their mother drinking water contaminated with TCE and/or PCE include:
Small for gestational age
Low birth weight
Fetal death
Major heart defects
Neural tube defects
Oral cleft defects (including cleft lip)
Chonal atresia (nasal passages blocked with bone or tissue)
Eye defects
Major malformations

ATSDR reported health problems in people of all ages from drinking water contaminated with TCE and/or PCE include:
Non-Hodgkins lymphoma
Bladder cancer
Breast cancer
Lung cancer

ATSDR reported health problems in people of all ages from working with TCE and/or PCE include:
Hodgkins disease
Non-Hodgkins lymphoma
Cervical cancer
Kidney cancer
Liver/biliary cancer
Ovarian cancer
Prostate cancer
Neurological effects (delayed reaction times problems with short-term memory, visual perception, attention, and color vision)

Radium 226 Health Effects

ATSDR reported that: “Radium has been shown to cause effects on the blood (anemia) and eyes (cataracts). It also has been shown to affect the teeth, causing an increase in broken teeth and cavities. Patients who were injected with radium in Germany, from 1946 to 1950, for the treatment of certain diseases including tuberculosis were significantly shorter as adults than people who were not treated.”

How likely is radium to cause cancer?

ATSDR noted that: “Exposure to high levels of radium results in an increased incidence of bone, liver, and breast cancer. The EPA and the National Academy of Sciences, Committee on Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation, has stated that radium is a known human carcinogen.” (See:

No Cost or Commitment for Legal Review

El Toro veterans, dependents, and civilian workers with injuries possibly related to exposure to TCE/PCE, radium and other contaminants at former MCAS El Toro can contact Mr. Michael E. Gates, Carroll, Kelly, Trotter, Franzen and McKenna, 111 W. Ocean Boulevard, 14th Floor, Long Beach, California 90802-4646, Telephone: (562) 432-5855. Facsimile: (562) 432-8785.

Mr. Gates told me that there is no cost to this legal review. However, there is a need for information from injured parties: “Now that we are moving forward on this, I will need names and contact info, although I do not necessarily need to be contacted personally. I will also need retainers signed by everyone individually, but I will send out a standard PDF version that can be printed, signed, and sent back to me. This retainer will just say that the injured party agrees to have us represent them and also binds us with confidentiality.”

Mr. Gates emphasized that: “Until a retainer is signed by the injured party, NO LEGAL REPRESENTATION HAS COMMENCED, and the "review" is merely exploratory. However, any and ALL communication is strictly confidential.”

With exception of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, no veteran, dependent or civilian employee of El Toro and the other 131 military bases on the EPA Superfund list has been notified of their possible exposure to contaminants and the health effects. The Navy and Marine Corps are attempting to notify Camp Lejeune veterans and civilians but only after Congressional legislation and the tragic deaths of children from the TCE contaminated wells on base.

One positive outcome of any legal review is that depending on the number of injured El Toro parties, the government may be forced to notify veterans and civilian workers of El Toro of their possible exposure to contaminants and the health effects. There’s no question that this is the right thing to do for those who served our county honorably.

Bob O’Dowd is a former U.S. Marine with thirty years of experience on the east coast as an auditor, accountant, and financial manager with the Federal government. Half of that time was spent with the Defense Logistics Agency in Philadelphia. Originally from Pennsylvania, he enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 19, served in the 1st, 3rd, and 4th Marine Aircraft Wings in 52 months of active duty in the 1960s. A graduate of Temple University, Bob has been married to Grace for 31 years. He is the father of two adult children and the grandfather of two boys. Bob has a blog site on former MCAS El Toro at This subject is where Bob intersected with Bob served in the exact same Marine Aviation Squadron that Salem-News founder Tim King served in, twenty years earlier. With their combined on-site knowledge and research ability, Bob and Tim and a handful of other ex-Marines, have put the contamination of MCAS El Toro on the map. The base is highly contaminated with TCE, trichloroethelyne

  • . You can email Bob O’Dowd, Environmental and Military Reporter, at this address:

    Comments Leave a comment on this story.

    All comments and messages are approved by people and self promotional links or unacceptable comments are denied.

    CPL rick w. GARCIA January 22, 2010 9:04 am (Pacific time)

    I was on the base 4 yrs 1974 1979 mag 11 tad to CVRSP.

    Mark A. Kitchen April 1, 2009 8:54 pm (Pacific time)

    Thank God for people who care about us who served our great country. Thank Tim and thanks Bob.

    Tim King: Thank you old friend; for your service in the Marine Corps years ago when we were kids and being part of our group today fighting to expose the truth about TCE.  Really glad you're around!  I know I speak for Bob too when I say this.  Thanks brother, Semper Fi. 

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