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Nov-02-2009 17:00printcomments

El Toro Marines, Cancer, and Irvine's 'Great Pork' Project

Salem-News.com is searching for those who spent time on the El Toro Marine Base.

Salem-News.com
The Orange County Great Park project is rapidly becoming known as the "Great Pork" project.

(IRVINE, Calif.) - I get really fired up when I consider the Marines that I served with on the flightline at El Toro, dying and suffering from cancer. The idea of their kids and even grandkids suffering diseases borne from the toxic chemicals dumped for half a century on the Marine base and then absorbed by our bodies and passed down to theirs, is even more sinister.

Knowing that I lived and breathed this toxic contamination for over two years makes me feel dirty in a way that I never knew before, it is an inherited liability that we didn't ask for but still possess.

I am asking Marines from El Toro, civilian employees from the base, and students of the former El Toro Marine School near base housing, to write to me at tim@salem-news.com and tell me what you know. I am especially interested in the school and any stories relating to nuclear activities on the base.

Along with Robert O'Dowd and Gordon Duff, I am one of several former Marines who writes for Salem-News.com and this article is part of a continuing series on contamination of the base that became serious in May, 2008.

The U.S. government is complacent in the needless deaths of Marines who could have been tipped off, given a clue, a heads up, but weren't. Fifty years of contaminating the base is one matter, and the notification of Marines and anyone related to the base is another. On both counts however, the government, specifically the Marine Corps, the Dept. of the Navy and the Dept. of Defense, completely and utterly failed. From there it gets worse.

Jim Davis, a veteran's advocate with Veterans for Change, told me last week, that perhaps 10% of the Marines who served at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Orange County, California, know about the deadly toxic chemicals that they once shared space with. It struck me as optimistic, but even ten percent is just a beginning.

While serving at El Toro, Marines, Marine families who lived in base housing, the children of Marines who attended the El Toro School, and the civilian base employees, were subjected to contact with numerous deadly substances.

MCAS El Toro in 2009, photos by Bonnie King

TCE and PCE (trichloroethylene and perchlorethylene) are chemicals that cut through the sooty grease that builds up on military jet fighters. After use, these chemicals were frequently just dumped into the ground, ultimately entering the groundwater aquifers.

Today a "plume" of TCE looms near surface level on the base, and extends underneath the city of Irvine. It goes for miles and the government's answer is to pump the chemical laden water a mile out into the ocean off South Laguna Beach and let the fish deal with it. Local environmental activist Roger Butow, also a former El Toro Marine who has written for Salem-News.com, says it is a deplorable and inexcusable continuation of the same kind of government stewardship that got us into this mess.

Perchlorate, an ingredient from bombs and munitions, is also present and stems from the El Toro ordinance dumps. Also present according to multiple sources, are detectable traces of enriched uranium 225 and also radium 226.

What fifty years of this type of environmental mayhem has led to, is a $14 billion dollar bill for the American taxpayer, according to Orange County resident Bill Turner, who has spent years following and studying the changes at El Toro.

"As a functioning Marine Corps base with all of its infrastructure and its ideal location, El Toro was estimated to be worth about $10 billion," Turner said

In order to close the base, the Marines had to go somewhere. The Navy picked Fightertown USA, the Miramar Naval Air Station, which reportedly had around 400 base housing units, to accommodate El Toro's 2,600 base housing families. Turner says this move cost an estimated $2 billion.

MCAS El Toro in 2008, photos by Tim King

"Of course the Navy had to put the Navy somewhere, so they moved them to Fallon, Nevada, which is nowhere close to the Pacific Fleet." That move? Turner says it was another $2 billion.

So the government closed El Toro, and sold it to Lennar Homes for roughly $650 million. Irvine took over part of the base, and after the people of Orange County seriously debated building an airport on the property, it was decided that the "Great Park Corporation" would build a several hundred acre park for kids to play on, smack dab on top of the polluted base where toxic carcinogenic hazards have led to a long list of Marines suffering horrible diseases.

Irvine city officials also fill the Great Park board, so they are moving ahead with blinders on. It is hard to stomach their utter lack of conscience and apparent will to place money in front of family health. Maybe this is why the entire plan is quickly becoming known as the "Great Pork" project.

You've got some real tigers on your hands Uncle Sam. The Marines are not a good group to mess with and those that are within the ranks of Marines but fail to actually help Marines, are a disgrace to their uniforms. You can't be on both teams, so make up your minds. Esprit de Corps brothers, remember that?

As for Lennar, America's number two homebuilder, they know they can't build houses at El Toro in good faith.

As I ask for more former El Toro Marines to write, I am in possession of hundreds of existing emails. Some served in the base's earlier years and some in the latter, but all say similar things.

The Internet was the one thing Lennar and Irvine didn't expect, at least back when this idea to turn El Toro into a bunch of elaborate and expensive homes was hatched. You need to absorb your losses, taking away the top Marine aviation base on the west coast was bad enough, wasn't it?

______________________________

Tim King in 2008, covering the Iraq War

Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer

Tim King has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. Tim is Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine.

Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from The Associated Press the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs, Electronic Media Association and The Red Cross In a personal capacity, Tim has written 2,026 articles as of March 2012 for Salem-News.com since the new format designed by Matt Lintz was launched in December, 2005.

Serving readers with news from all over the globe, Tim's life is literally encircled by the endless news flow published by Salem-News.com, where more than 100 writers contribute stories from 20+ countries and regions.

Tim specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide with an emphasis on Palestine and Sri Lanka, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the U.S. Marines. You can write to Tim at this address: tim@salem-news.com. Visit Tim's Facebook page (facebook.com/TimKing.Reporter)

View articles written by Tim King





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Merit April 22, 2010 2:11 pm (Pacific time)

Thank you for informing the public about this issue with el toro. Please keep investigating and writing about it. Merit from Aliso Viejo.


Ralph Charles Whitley, Sr. November 4, 2009 6:56 am (Pacific time)

Sadly the Military Leaders do not follow Federal Law such as 29 CFR 1910.1001 or 29 CFR 1926.1101 on asbestos exposure plus high levels of bacteria and fungi are in all military housing as can be verified by PETRI DISH culture of any faucet Aerator or Shower Head. Imagine buildings left unoccupied for weeks, months or even longer then new occupants come onboard without normal BACTERIA TESTS involving large amounts of Chlorine all throughout water lines hot and cold before new tenants arrive. Same on Mobile Homes or Trailers when they are supplementing housing. Perhaps someone should make those facilities safe and follow annually those exposed by the Regulations as they are dying slowly with asbestos and silica exposure to begin with in reports read. 110409


Chuck Palazzo November 4, 2009 1:39 am (Pacific time)

Tim, Thanks to you and to the rest of the team for this outstanding story and series of revelations. We MUST keep the pressure on - to clean-up, provide medical help, and force the US Government to once again, admit to a wrong they knew they were party to! Outstanding job, as always. And please, lets all circulate Jim's comments and get the signatures WE all need. Semper Peace! Chuck


John Uldrich November 3, 2009 9:53 am (Pacific time)

Tim and Team: very well done and a true picture of what it takes to earn the dubious title of a "Superfund Site" - a man-induced toxic soup that will cost millions to clean up - years to accomplish!


Susan Tackitt November 3, 2009 3:54 am (Pacific time)

We just burried an old family friend that took that little secret to his grave. A little about Clarence Noland. He worked as a police officer in Dayton, Ohio. He was a veteran of the U.S. Navy, Marines and Army Reserves. He served his country honorably during World War II, and he was proud to be a veteran. I tried to get him to sign up for VA benefits. He said there are so many other guys who did more for their Country than him and said he didnt deserve it. That is a problem with many Veterans. The sad thing about it if they had the benefits due them their children would have lived better lives because they could have gone to college and got an education. This is why I Volunteer to help Veterans. Thanks Tim.


Jim Davis, Veterans-For-Change November 3, 2009 12:44 am (Pacific time)

I want to thank Tim and Bonnie King of Salem News, Bob O’Dowd, John Uldrich and the countless others who have selflessly and freely given of their time and involved themselves deeply to bring this story to light to the general public and hopefully more to the eyes of those whom we’ve elected into office. CNN did a nice “fluff” piece on the male breast cancer cluster at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, but they sorely dropped the ball and didn’t bother to mention the 130 active and former military bases on the EPA Superfund list, nor to mention the female breast cancer and other problems, children who have been diagnosed with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma or birth defects, or the countless veterans who’ve lost their battle and passed on or the number of children who have also lost their battle and passed on. Camp LeJeune is not the only base, just the active base with the most problems, yet there are thousands and thousands of former military and active duty personnel who have passed through anyone of all of these bases at one point in their career and are totally unaware why they are now sick and possibly dying. Or even why their children were born with birth defects, and the list of illnesses goes on and on! With the help of Bob O’Down and a few others we’ve drafted the TCE/PCE Reduction Act of 2009 which has now been presented to well over 50 members of the House for review and hopefully a signature and presentation to the floor for a vote. Veterans-For-Change has sponsored a hard copy petition to see to it this bill is signed and put to the floor, but we still need your help to achieve our goal of 40,000 signatures! You don’t have to be former military, a veteran, you can be a concerned citizen, but we desperately need the signatures! If you’re interested in signing the petition, please send and E-Mail to Jim.Davis@veterans-for-change.com, the petition will be sent to you along with directions. And I urge everyone to copy the link to this story and forward far and wide to you own personal E-Mail lists, the groups you may belong to, get the word out like fire! WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

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©2019 Salem-News.com. All opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Salem-News.com.


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