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May-01-2008 13:26printcomments

El Toro Marines Should be Aware of Possible Contaminant Based Health Hazards

The base closed in the late 90's, and around the same time massive amounts of contamination affecting the groundwater there were discovered.

Marines at El Toro's MWSG-37 area in 1982.  Marines from left; Bob Myer, Carlos Lopez, unidentified, Robert Stover and Michael Jung.
Marines at El Toro's MWSG-37 area in 1982. Marines from left; Bob Myer, Carlos Lopez, Ryan Quinn, Brian Stover and Michael Jung. Photo by Tim King USMC

(EL TORO, Calif.) - 23 years have lapsed since a TCE plume was found near the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station and advocates say no Marine veterans, dependents or civilian workers have been notified by the government over possible contact and contamination. For those of us who served at El Toro, the news means that we could have been exposed to the contamination that was not revealed until the late 1980's.

As a reporter we are trained to not become part of the story, but sometimes that is impossible to avoid. In fact we are behind a lot of Marine and soldier advocacy at Salem-News.com, and this week I was contacted by a group over the situation at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina where many people who are sick today, served as Marines. The people affected by the apparent soil contamination problem include wives and dependents and civilian employees.

The problems at El Toro are similar and they are ongoing. This was my duty station for the better part of three years, smack dab in the middle of the area that the EPA so heavily scrutinized.

Toxnews.org, a Website that launched in 2006, has focused on what is now becoming known as the Woodbridge/Irvine contamination. They pull no punches, warning Southern California residents, "You and your family may be in danger because of a cancer causing plume of TCE from the El Toro Base that's under your homes, apartments, schools, etc. now!"

The underground plume stretches approximately three miles and covers a total area of 2900 acres. TCE which stands for Trichloroethane, is contamination generated by a solvent used to dissolve or disperse substances such as oil; used in metal degreasing.

Hangars in the MWSG-37 section of El Toro MCAS today

At Camp Lejeune, it took Congressional action for the Marine Corps and Navy to recognize their responsibility to notify veterans. It appears that similar efforts may be required for El Toro veterans.

I knew the now closed El Toro Marine Corps Air Station was the center of an environmental controversy, in fact, a few years before closure the base was placed on the EPA Superfund list.

That was in 1990, and since then much of the contamination has reportedly been cleaned up by the Navy. Most of the land that comprises El Toro sold at a public auction in 2005. Marine Wing Support Group-37, also known as site 24 on the base, was the source of the toxic plume spreading off the base.

My point right now is to reach other El Toro Marines and make sure they and their families are aware of this, since the government in all of its secrecy and lack of communication, reveals nothing to us.

If you were a Marine stationed at El Toro please write to me at tim@salem-news.com and I will begin to put us all into formation, so to speak, and keep track of developments for you via email. I am talking to many people and agencies about this and the work is a prelude to what we plan to cover regarding the Marine Corps base in North Carolina.


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. Today, in addition to his role as a war correspondent in Afghanistan where he spent the winter of 2006/07, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website, affiliated only with Google News. Tim's coverage from Iraq that was set to begin in April has been delayed and may not take place until August, 2008. You can send Tim an email at this address: newsroom@salem-news.com




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Anonymous May 6, 2008 10:29 pm (Pacific time)

"Thats the breaks"- as clown-boy Vic would say.

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