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Irvine Councilwoman Christina Shea Speaks Out on Environmental Mess at El Toro

El Toro Marine base

An environmentally sensitive politician from the GOP steps up to expose Irvine’s Toxic Cocktail

(SALEM, Ore.) – Never believe there isn’t reason for hope. The old Marine Corps air base in Orange County, El Toro, is a huge political liability, that isn’t necessarily a big secret, but new attention is being drawn to this fact by one of Irvine’s city leaders, Councilwoman Christina Shea. She is coming out swinging with allegations of cover ups, wasted taxpayer funds and major concerns about the health of people who once lived on the base, or today live near it.

“I’m very concerned about it, this is about the health and welfare of our children. I want to know about the contamination on this base, I have seven grandchildren,” Shea told Salem-News.

This means a lot to those of us who were once Marines at this place. MCAS El Toro was for half a century, a vibrant base that was a strong defensive point for all of Southern California. The Marines were a strong revenue source for Orange County.

It is a complicated and twisted tale that begins with this military base’s listing by BRAC, the Base Realignment and Closure Committee, back in 90′s. By 1999 the planes lifted off for the last time, the base was closed for good and the El Toro aviation Marines were sent to Miramar in San Diego, “Fightertown USA”.

The Navy’s Top Gun Fighter Weapons School, immortalized by the Tom Cruise film of the same name, was sent packing from Miramar, to a land locked base in Fallon, Nevada.

Then came a years long fight between two ideas: turning El Toro into an airport to relieve stress on Orange County’s John Wayne Airport, or transform the base into a park and housing community.

The park idea won, now it is losing fast.


New Images of the closed Marine air bases at El Toro & Tustin.
See the photos individually on Tim King’s MySpace page

We have been bringing the story of El Toro forward for three years now; crews have spent a good deal of time on the base documenting the different sites, and continually learning more and more from hundreds of former and current Marines who write to us, telling us about their service at the base and often, all too often, details on the illnesses they suffer from. These are issues that also affect their lives, families and livelihood.

Like Agent Orange, TCE contamination is something that is passed down through generations.

There really are no secrets about El Toro, the base has been an EPA ‘Superfund’ site since the contamination was first studied by the Dept. of the Navy several years ago. As we have revealed in our reports, all of the damning evidence is available for the Public to see in the Woodbridge Irvine Public Library in the at Heritage Park.

Very similar problems are in place at the Camp Lejeune Marine base in North Carolina. Contaminated water there is on the national radar and three elected officials from both political parties in N.C. are working together for the sake of the Marines there. One example, Camp Lejeune has nearly 60 confirmed male breast cancer cases; the health problems are severe and date back to before the Vietnam War.

The contaminants present at El Toro in Irvine, California, notably in the underground water aquifers, are as follows:

  • Trichloroethylene (TCE)- Aircraft degreaser used to keep the Marine Corps fighter planes clean.
  • Perchloroethylene (PCE) – Dry cleaning chemical that like TCE, is a multi chlorine degreaser.
  • Benzene – Fuel ingredient in gasoline and aircraft and jet fuels.
  • U-235 enriched uranium; this is a very controversial aspect of El Toro; regular anti-nuclear protests took place at the base in the early 1980′s.
  • Perchlorate A contaminant connected to munitions
  • Approximately 35-45 more harmful chemicals.

Marines were never provided safety and use instruction or equipment, many are ill and many have died. And while this has taken place, the city of Irvine, Great Park Corp. and Lennar Corp., have been planning a ‘Great Park’ and housing community on the old contaminated base.

But as Christina Shea says, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent, and all they have managed to do is create a mini-park with lots of trees mounted in above-ground boxes, and a bright orange balloon that takes people into the air to see hundreds of acres of broken and destroyed buildings, and a once gallant flightline that now serves as a motorhome storage lot.

Shea said, “We only have $19 million left, so much has been spent on development, I honestly don’t know what we are going to do.”

This Orange County Republican says she expected El Toro’s runways to be plowed some time ago, but instead they remain perfectly intact. She wonders if that could equate to unearthing a nightmare. Environmental writer Roger Butow, in Laguna Beach, is also a former El Toro Marine. Roger and I visited the base a few weeks ago and he speculated over the possibilities of what may exist beneath that runway.

“As soon as they start tearing up all of this asphalt and concrete, the soil beneath it is contaminated, a lot of that has to be taken away, and where do they take this stuff… hazardous landfills? Places like Kettleman City have already seen so much abuse, up the I-5 freeway in the San Joaquin Valley.”

Roger says you can’t remediate all of this soil right on the site, just as you can’t remediate the underground water tables, the aquifer; because it replenishes when heavy rains come. El Toro is a trap.

He said if they actually tear the runway up, “They’re going to end up spending billions of dollars.”

Christina Shea says Irvine Mayor Larry Agran and developer Lennar are invoking an attorney/client rule to keep the findings about the condition of the base out of public view, this Shea finds unacceptable.

“We need to get to the bottom of this, we need to do the right thing, regardless of everything else.”

She says there is a major cover up and that it has been going on for a long time. As a city councilor, Christina Shea is entering her final months; she is ready to expose the situation at El Toro and I think she is to be applauded for taking a stand.

View the original article at Veterans Today

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