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Sep-17-2010 09:36printcommentsVideo

Irvine City Council Wrestles El Toro Marines Over Deadly Toxins

The informational awareness of Irvine, California took a big step forward this week.

Irvine City Council
Photos and video by Tim King

(IRVINE, Calif.) - The dangerous toxicity of the El Toro Marine base was a large focus of this week's Irvine City Council meeting. Council Members Christina Shea and Steven Choi are drawing attention to unaddressed questions about the proposed Great Park that they believe are very serious.

Roger Butow and Nicole Wright

This comes at a time when a $243 million dollar budget allotted for the project has been reduced to a scant $19 million. Shea says Irvine Mayor Pro Tem Larry Agran, conspicuously absent from this week's meeting, has plenty to explain about secret deals and lingering runways.

"I would assume and I think many of us assume under there over the last thirty or forty years, of runoff, and they indicated that they found no contaminants, well I find that ludicrous, I don't know how that could be, so consequently we were supposed to have been tearing up the runway two or three years ago and now the plan has changed and they are not touching the runways and I think that is because it is costly to tear them up and they are worried about what they are going to find and the remediation of all that soil; where are they going to put it, where they are going to put the concrete. So, we've spent over $40 million on a design that has no runways on it whatsoever, and now the Chairman, Mr. Agran are suggesting they are going to remain there, for how long I have no idea."

The city council and all of Irvine- via the local Government Cable Access TV channel, heard things about El Toro that were grim at best; facts that have remained in the informational shadows cast by the Great Parks Corporation, Irvine city hall, Lennar Homes and the Irvine Ranch Water District.

They learned of remediation efforts that will take several decades to complete, as the council moves forward with the Great Park development. They also came to understand how more community members, like our team writer Roger Butow and local mother Nicole Wright, are approaching this problem with a steady commitment to human safety.

Wright said, "They're talking about building a park on top of El Toro base, and yet they also say point blank that it is going to take fifty more years to get that site uncontaminated and cleaned up. Well how can you talk about building a park where children and families go, to a site that quite possibly could kill them, that is what makes my blood boil as a mother, as a part of a family, I can't even imagine them making that kind of decision."

The council meeting involved testimony about the remediation of El Toro by a large team from the Great Park project and all of the associated agencies. Their assessments were very positive, but seemed to overlook major parts of this complex project.

Among the contaminants listed are TCE, PCE, benzene, different types of heavy metals, and Agent Orange. Irvine Councilor Dr. Steve Choi brought up what might be the biggest allegation of all, one that is potentially radioactive.

The Department of the Navy heads the El Toro remediation process and the man representing that agency is James Callian, the Base Relocation and Closure Environmental Coordinator, claims to know nothing about the allegations of U-235 enriched uranium raised by Dr. Choi.

Roger Butow and others at the meeting say it is amazing that Callian claims to know nothing about the allegations of enriched Uranium, when the location of this radioactive material by Dr. Chuck Bennett was the subject of an article written for the Fullerton Observer and published several years ago. The information is common in many circles, but apparently the Navy doesn't know about it.

"Jim Callian's allegation that he never heard of Dr. Bennett means that either he's been intentionally firewalled from receiving this information or that he knows it and is a liar. Sort of a "What didn't he know and when didn't he know it" redux of President Reagan during Contra-gate hearings. Granted, Jim rotated in a few years ago as the former BRAC facilitator left, but it borders on the impossible that Jim in his lofty position wouldn't have been given recon about such a controversial subject. If true, then the present day left hand hasn't a clue about what the historical right hand learned. Not only Dr. Bennett's assertions about unnaturally high concentrations of U235, but the suspicions and rumors surrounding his demise were lively topics at the Sub-Committee meetings chaired by Lake Forest City Council member Marcia Rudolph and also at general stakeholder RAB hearings. It was very convenient for the government and Great Park poobahs that he died as he was blowing the whistle. Several Sub-Committee members claimed that they'd seen Dr, Bennett's garage, that it was filled to the brim with hard copy evidentiary information about the contaminations at MCAS site, and funny how those boxes and crates miraculously disappeared post haste after his untimely death. Combine this "natural death" with Colonel James Sabow's staged suicide and you have people from a X-Files episode running the show. It's amazing that they haven't "Disappeared" Christina. I am personally very worried about her safety. If Bennett and Sabow were removed with criminal intent, what's to stop them from doing the same to Christina, or even me? I'm single, I live alone. We're dealing with huge egos, political, civilian staff and military careers on the line that could be halted in their tracks, even indicted for collusion. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but this just gets curiouser and more bizarre by the day."

At one point Butow attempted to hand an informational sheet off to the Great Park staff, and the effort to educate was flatly denied.

City Councilwoman Beth Krom's statement about how the base will be redeveloped under any conditions may illustrate an apparent unwillingness on the city's part, to accept that they may be trying to mitigate environmental damage that can not be accomplished in their lifetimes.

While the council wrestles with the environmental issues, Shea cited her dissatisfaction with Mayor Pro Tem Larry Agran's invoking an attorney client privilege in dealings that should be made in full public view.

Advocate Nicole Wright says there is no going back on her commitment to see El Toro and all of Orange County, remain as safe as possible. She never wants to see her children deal with the problems that plague El Toro Marines.

More background on El Toro contaminants from's Robert O'Dowd, another former El Toro Marine:

TCE was the used as degreasing agent for decades in these hangars. No usage records were kept, but based on the engineering estimates of the soil and groundwater, literally tons of TCE in 55 gallon drums were used without regard to environmental concerns. Waste products was dumped into sanitary drains or the ground.

TCE is not the only COCs or ‘chemicals of concern,’ an EPA’s euphemism for chemicals that are an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment. My read is that exposure EPA’s COCs can make you very sick and even kill you. The complete list of EPA’s COC for El Toro is posted on the EPA website and with the health effects of exposure as determined by another government agency, the Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry (ATSDR). El Toro’s COCs were found in the soil and groundwater; some of them throughout the base while others only in the most industrialized portion in the southwest quadrant.

For the Marines, dependents, and civilian workers on the former base, this is an unwanted legacy of their service at El Toro. There’s no magic pill to take, if exposed these COCs. Morbidity or the incidence of ill health depends upon various factors, including an individual’s immune system, the toxicity of a particular COC, the route of exposure, and the duration of exposure. Like most Superfund sites, the EL TORO’S TOXIC SOUP DU JOUR is long: 1,1,1-trichloroethane, 1,1,2,2-pca, 1,1,2-tca, 1,1,2-trichloroethane, 1,1-dca, 1,1-dce. 1,1-dichloroethene, 1,2-dichloropropane, 2-butanone, 2-hexanone, 4,4-dd, 4,4-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethane, 4-methyl-2-pentanone, acetone, aluminum (fume or dust), aluminum (metal), aroclor-1254, aroclor-1260, arsenic, benzene, benzo(b)fluoranthene, benzo[a]anthracene, benzo[a]pyrene, beryllium, bromodichloromethane, bromoform, carbon disulfide, carbon tetrachloride, chlorobenzene, chloroform, chloromethane, chrysene, dibenzo(a,h)anthracene, dibromochloromethane, dieldrin, ethylbenzene, indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrene, manganese, mcpp, methylene chloride, pce, styrene, tca, tce, tetrachloroethene, toluene, trichloroethene, trichloroethylene, trichlorofluoromethane, vinyl chloride, and xylenes.

Media present at this week's Irvine City Council meeting in addition to, included The Orange County Register, OC Voices and the LA Times.

Check these articles about the meeting this week in Irvine:


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:

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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Ralph A. Perez October 14, 2010 1:02 pm (Pacific time)

It was bad enough when I received the letter from the Marines about how I was exposed to TCE,PCE and benzene at Camp LeJeune. Now I find that El Toro was contaminated as well,....I did my last 15 months there upon return from overseas. I remember the faces of all the men I served with and its shame, That to the Corps we were just a number and expendable. I guess they dont think that we are important to somebody. First we are men, doing a job most dont have the guts to do. We are fathers, brothers,sons and have famiiles that depend on us. Not only did they rob us of a healthy life , but they rob our families as well, of a healthy provider. Being sick limits your range of job opertunities,whitch in turn limits your income. Creating hard times, stress and depression. Instead of being out side enjoy life I'm in bed or in a hospital recovering from some unknow blood Virus,soars that won't heal or a painful rashs. Thats on a good day. It is so degrading,humiliating to be dressed, undressed,bathed or have your bottom wiped because you can't do it. 163,000 at LeJeune, I wonder how many at El Toro? 163,000 all can't be liars. When I was 17yrs old and joined the Corps I thought I was doing the right thing. I know that I will never recover from this and will die a painful death. Now its time for The Corps and VA to do the right thing. Don't insult us any more than you have all ready done.Help us carry this weight you put on our backs and the backs of our loved ones. They provide the only care we get.

Editor: Ralph, it is a Hell of a thing isn't it?  Thanks for writing and checking in.  We have contact with a substantial number of Marines from both bases over this, and 13 of our writers are former Marines, several, including myself, were El Toro Marines.  Please feel free to drop me an email to be in the loop.  My name is Tim King and my email is

Matt Johnson September 17, 2010 11:43 am (Pacific time)

Go Marines!

Jim Davis, Veterans-For-Change September 17, 2010 10:47 am (Pacific time)

Great job again folks! Got to keep this in their face, on their minds and in the eye of the public as well! And maybe someday soon the documents on testing will be made public and this fiasco will stop. Thousands and thousands of former military and civilian workers were exposed and poisoned, many are already sick, dying or have died and we can stop risking more lives when people wake up and see how the Irvine City Council is trying so hard to pull the wool over their eyes! This development simply cannot move forward!

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