July 23, 2008, El Toro, CA – El Toro Marine Air Station used to be the premiere Marine Corps aviation facility on the west coast. It closed in 1999 and is in the midst of big change; a park will soon occupy the land and new homes are being built. But while the politicians move forward and families move into new homes on the former base, contamination in the base’s water system from a degreasing chemical is staying off the radar.
Most Marines who served at the El Toro Marine Air Station in Orange. County, California would hardly recognize the place today. Since its closure in 1999, the land that used to be the Irvine Ranch, has been a hotbed of controversy. Many people wanted to see it become a large airport for Orange County, others wanted to see a more public use, and that is where it is heading.
But a group of veterans that growing quickly in number, say El Toro, along with the active Marine Corps base Camp Lejeune on the east coast, is a major TCE contaminant zone. TCE, Trichloroethylene, was a chemical degreaser used to clean the parts off Marine Corps jet fighters.
It is believed that for years, the toxic chemical invaded the water system here.
Marines have died, children have been born with birth defects, and experts like Salem-News.com’s Dr. Phil Leveque, who as a toxicologist had one of the first TCE-related court cases in the U.S., says the effects of this chemical are far reaching.
According to records, the contaminated wells were shut down in 1970, but residue from the poisonous degreaser continued to affect people because it was in the ground.
The group of watchdog Marines bringing the story forward, also say there are eyewitness accounts of many 55 gallon barrels of TCE being buried in a hole here at El Toro.
The base is now incorporated into the city of Irvine.
Irvine’s city council met last night and one of the prime items was the redevelopment of the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. The Public Information Officer for Irvine, Louie Gonzales, explained what the city is doing with the property.
The most important thing is for Marines, family members and civilian workers who worked here, to learn of the possible health hazards so they can seek treatment.
TCE causes mutations, intestinal disorders and cancer. The federal government has not performed sufficient outreach to let Marines and former Marines know about the hazards they may face, now or in the future.