Spanning 4,682 acres, the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro was the largest jet station, with four runways that could easily accommodate the largest aircraft in the US fleet. However, in 1990, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared El Toro a superfund site, a status given to polluted areas requiring long-term cleanup, after discovering volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other hazardous substances. The base closed down in 1999.
Ehline Law and our toxic exposure attorneys help veterans exposed to toxic substances at Camp Lejeune and others under the PACT Act. We are pushing for legislation to help West Coast vets get PACT Act protections. You may qualify for compensation if you’re suffering from service-related illness at El Toro or other military bases. Contact us now for a free consultation on your case.
The EPA identified deadly chemical substances in MCAS El Toro groundwater, including Trichloroethane, Tetrachloroethane, Dichloroethane, Dichloropropane, Butanone, Methyl-2-Pentanone, Acetone, Benzene, Bromodichloromethane, Carbon Disulfide, Carbon Tetrachloride, Chlorobenzene, Chloroethene, Chloroform, Chloromethane, Dibromochloromethane, Dichloromethane, Ethylbenzene, Styrene, Tetrachloroethene, Toluene, and Xylene.
At the El Toro burn pits, investigations found Arsenic, Beryllium, Dibenzo, and Manganese in the soil. At the same time, the EPA discovered traces of Trichlororethene contamination in the groundwater at the burn pits (site 16).
The EOD range at Site 1 had groundwater contamination with the following contaminants:
Sites 3 and 5 (former landfill sites) contained Benzo(a)pyrene causing soil contamination, while NFA sites also suffered from soil contamination, with investigations revealing the following hazardous contaminants:
Sites 7, 8, 11, 12, and 14 also suffered from soil contamination. What’s interesting is site 24 had both soil and groundwater contamination with similar hazardous substances such as Trichloroethane, Dichloroethene, Butanone, Hexanone, and other dangerous substances.
Let’s explore the cleanup activities, site studies, and remedial design carried out at the US military base.
In collaboration with the US Navy, the EPA identified 25 sites at the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, including landfills containing toxic substances (battery acids, lead fuel, and more) and hazardous solid waste. The primary source of contamination is the two large aircraft hangars where the military personnel would degrease the airplanes.
In 1997, regulatory bodies with the US Navy completed their investigation into the extent of groundwater contamination. They started a joint Desalter project with Orange County Water District to address the contamination.
The US Navy proposed a remedial design in November 2001 and signed the Record of Decision (ROD) with the relevant stakeholders in June 2002. In July 2002, the Navy sent their remedial design and corrective action and carried out the remedial action tasks in the mid-2006. By the fall of 2006, the groundwater extraction and treatment system had become fully operational. However, groundwater remediation efforts continue to this day.
Site 16 is a former firefighting training ground where military personnel would dump chemicals and other solvents into pits and set them on fire before dousing them with more toxic substances. Investigations of site 16 revealed heavy VOCs and petroleum hydrocarbons contamination.
Between 1999 and 2001, the Navy carried out an MPE study that helped remove most of the affected soil. However, it did not improve the state of the contaminated groundwater. To address that, the Navy recommended Monitored Natural Attenuation (MNA). The Navy also performed a predesign action to determine whether the MNA was operating effectively. At the start of 2007, the EPA approved a plan for the remedy.
Sites 8, 11, and 12 are a former storage yard, transformer storage area, and a sludge drying bed. The soil contaminated primarily with PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl) prompted a feasibility study in 1996. Fortunately, the groundwater had no signs of contamination.
In September 1999, the Navy signed a ROD for soil removal, and by the summer of 2005, they had completed the excavation and disposal of the contaminated soil. In 2006, the EPA approved the closure of site 11. However, the Navy re-issued the ROD for sites 8 and 12 and signed on it, allowing them to complete the remedial design by December 2008, and start remedial action by the end of 2009.
The Navy had their suspicions about contamination of wastewater treatment lines and underground storage tanks, prompting them to conduct a study to assess the contamination levels. In mid-1996, they completed the investigation, declaring no further action. Closure work is still ongoing.
There was a concern about site 2, landfills, and investigations revealed VOC plumes outside the site. Although the Navy submitted a feasibility study addendum in 2005, they held onto completing the feasibility study until 2006, when they completed further investigations of contaminated groundwater.
They found that the perchlorate plume originating at the former EOD range traveled to site 2. The Navy started a pilot study to identify remedial technologies to address the issue. In 2011, they completed the feasibility study for sites 1 and 2; by 2012, they signed the ROD.
Anomaly Area 3 consisted of burrows and trenches filled with construction debris and other waste. In 2005, the Navy finalized the site’s remedial investigations and feasibility studies.
In 2005, the Navy completed a remedial investigation for site 1, a former EOD range, which was operational from 1952 until its closure in 1999. The EOD range was a site for military personnel to use hand grenades, rockets, landmines, and other explosives for testing and training purposes.
In December 2006, a final remedial investigation report showed a groundwater perchlorate plume under the EOD range, which traveled to site 2. The Navy completed the remedial action for the contaminated soil. However, studies are still underway to determine the best possible remedial technologies to combat toxic groundwater.
In 2012, the Navy signed ROD to address remedial actions for both the sites and is waiting to complete the pilot studies before finalizing the feasibility studies.
In 1998, the Navy submitted a proposal to cap four landfill sites 2 and 17 at OU-2B and 3 and 5 at OU-2C. The plan aimed at habitat restoration for sites 2 and 17 for the endangered Californian Gnatcher. They signed the ROD for the two landfills at OU-2B in April 2000 and completed the remedial design. In 2005, the Navy started constructing the cap. Currently, capping and habitat restoration for site 2 is complete, while work for site 17 is still underway.
In August 2002, the Navy completed the predesign investigation for the two sites at OU-2C landfills. In 2002, they began fieldwork, and by 2006, they submitted the feasibility studies addendum. In 2009, the US Navy completed the design and remedial action for OU-2C.
To address soil contamination at site 24, the Navy signed a ROD in September 1997. During investigations, they found that the soil contamination had already penetrated the groundwater. To combat that, the Navy borrowed the Soil Vapor Extraction system from the Norton Air Force Base. By September 2000, testing confirmed that the Navy had achieved its soil gas cleanup goals. The regulatory bodies approved the closure of the site. However, the US Navy is still closely monitoring the groundwater monitoring wells until a groundwater cleanup system kicks off to address the remaining contamination. In 2006, all parties agreed there was no need for further action on site 24 soil.
The US Navy submitted a feasibility study draft for sites 7 (tank storage and drainage area) and 14 (battery acid disposal area) in 1999. By 2001, they signed a ROD agreeing that there was no need for further action at these two sites.
In 1978, the Department of Defense (DoD) funded a special program known as the Installation Restoration Program to help identify and control the spread of chemical substance contamination at US military bases and facilities. In 1993, when the Navy approved the closure of the El Toro base, they received special funds from the DoD for the environmental cleanup. They also raised further funding in 2005 by selling parts of the former base.
The PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) concentration found at the El Toro base contains more than 3,800 parts per trillion, significantly more than the safe limits of 70 parts per trillion.
Countless medical issues can arise from PFAS concentration.
Some of these include:
Marines and other military officers started to experience deteriorating health after their service at El Toro. When reports about the El Toro contamination broke the news, many veterans were unaware of the dangers of handling such toxic substances.
Ray Alkofer, a retired El Toro Marine, suffered from severe illnesses and died in 2011 from a rare neuromuscular disease. He and his colleagues worked at the contaminated hangar where they would wash down the airplanes with toxic substances. All his friends fell ill, and most of them died.
Ray’s wife fought the Department of Veterans Affairs for two years after getting Ray’s claims declined. However, after losing both his legs, the VA processed his claims. Unfortunately, six months after receiving the claim, Ray passed away. Today, the legacy of El Toro carries on, not only to the EL Toro veterans but their family members as well. Both of Ray’s children suffer from respiratory and other serious health issues, with doctors giving them a few years to live.
Although the VA promises to care for its veterans, many veterans are dying without ever receiving benefits or compensation. It can be challenging to prove your illness is linked to your service. However, our attorneys are ready to help you with your toxic exposure claim.
If you’re suffering from service-related illness, contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for free formal legal advice on your case. It’s not fair for our service members to suffer in silence after giving most of their lives away for our country. Our attorneys will help you get the compensation you deserve to receive world-class medical treatment for your service-related illness. Contact us to find out how Ehline Law and our attorneys support veterans.