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EL Toro Debate Focuses on Contamination Levels

January 06, 2002

Re "Health Issues Cloud El Toro," editorial, Dec. 30:

Your Dec. 30 editorial strongly suggests that the entire base is loaded with so many contaminated waste products that the land has been designated one of the most polluted in the nation. It concludes that the base is so contaminated that public health and safety will require any development to be put on hold. This impression is utterly false.

Here's the truth from the public record: The base is more than 4,700 acres, fewer than 60 have been identified as toxically dangerous and fewer than 700 are still being examined as potentially, but not necessarily, contaminated. The remaining acres are safe to use and to develop. After cleanup, every inch of the base will be safe.

What the county, and apparently you too, ignore is the fact that during the last several decades thousands of Marines and their family members have been eating, sleeping, working and playing on the base, and none--not a single one--has mutated into a raging toxic hulk.

Furthermore, for years commercial agriculture has flourished on the base. In fact, you, like thousands of Orange County residents, might have eaten strawberries grown there by local farmers. Quick, turn out the lights. Are any of your staff members glowing?

Ed Dornan


Safe and Healthy

Communities Fund



Even before the Orange County Great Park initiative, Measure W, was certified for the March 5 ballot, the pro-airport crowd picked up its bat and began taking wild swings at it, missing each time.

The latest and wildest swing at Measure W comes from the Airport Working Group's hired gun, Greg Hurley, who asserts that El Toro is contaminated with toxins and nothing can safely be built out there--except, of course, an airport. Wrong yet again!

Let's look at the facts. El Toro is 4,738 acres--7 square miles in size. After eight years of study by federal, state and local authorities, a grand total of 60 acres have been cordoned off as unsuitable for near-term reuse because of toxic contamination. An additional 650 acres have been identified for further study and near-term cleanup by the federal government.

The balance--more than 4,000 acres, or 85% of the entire property--has been identified as ready for reuse. In fact, hundreds of acres are being safely reused--for child-care, golfing and equestrian facilities, for agriculture and for a 1,000-acre nature and wildlife preserve. Moreover, Cal State Fullerton is paying millions of dollars to locate a satellite campus at El Toro. Plans are underway to reopen 1,189 housing units.

The plain truth is that whatever the toxic contamination at El Toro, it is the federal government's responsibility--by law--to clean it up. I'm pleased to report that the cleanup at El Toro will be meeting high residential standards, regardless of whether it costs the government $35 million or $350 million.

It's shameful that the pro-airport forces are offering to pave over any toxic problems and let the federal government off the hook. (By the way, it's not possible to move 40 million cubic yards of earth to build an airport without first addressing the cleanup issues.) The pro-airport forces should stop playing politics with the public's health. Whether you favor a massive airport at El Toro, or whether you favor creating a Great Park that is much more gentle on the land, let's all agree to put the public's health and safety first.

Larry Agran




Re "More Pros and Cons on the El Toro Proposals," Letters, Dec. 23:

The desperation of the pro-airport side is bordering on the ridiculous. One author claimed an airport at El Toro will create (exactly?) 84,714 jobs by 2020. Certainly an amazing number for such a long-term projection, and also patently false. The real economics of El Toro are simple. First, airports in and of themselves are not economic engines and generate relatively few jobs. Most airport activity, and any related jobs, are actually part of the ripple effect from the overall economic activity of the surrounding community.

More important, even if El Toro were to open, actual job creation would be minimal. Admittedly, thanks to the sweetheart deal signed two years ago, the labor unions would benefit from the construction phase of the airport. After that burst, however, any jobs created by El Toro would be offset by the jobs lost when John Wayne closes, which has always been the singular goal of Newport Beach. The county itself has admitted that true international flights out of El Toro are not possible, so that fact eliminates any thoughts of a job bonanza from international trade.

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