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Pollution Becomes an El Toro Issue

January 27, 2002

Re "Report on El Toro's Toxic Soil Debated," Jan. 17:

Backers of an airport at El Toro--struggling to salvage their unpopular project--have turned pollution into a political issue. Because there are pockets of hazardous material in the soil at El Toro, they propose that we make matters worse and build an airport. If the land is dirty, they would leave it dirty--and add airport pollution on top of what already exists.

The worst risk that we face at El Toro will come from poisoned air if we allow an airport. Airports sicken people who don't even use them.

Every day, planes will deposit tons of cancer-producing chemicals, carbon monoxide and lung-damaging particles over Orange County. By contrast, there is minimal risk from physical contact with chemicals in the soil. Tens of thousands of Marines and their families lived, worked, went to school and played at El Toro for years--with no adverse health effects.

Common sense in planning where facilities are built will avoid the capped landfills. Eventually, the federal government will be required to render them safe.

County politicians are poised to build a huge airport at El Toro unless voters stop the project March 5. The O.C. Central Park and Nature Preserve Initiative was conceived to protect our quality of life. "Yes" on W votes will commit El Toro to safe, non-traffic-producing, nonpolluting, nonaviation uses--like parks, schools, museums, research facilities, sports venues and health care centers.

Leonard Kranser

Committee for Safe

and Healthy Communities

Dana Point


Measure W makes no sense and is glaringly unfair. South County already has 103,144 acres of parkland, which averages six people per acre. Passage of Measure W would add another whopping 4,700 acres.

On the other hand, North County has only 8,035 acres of parkland, averaging 249 people per acre. Certainly, it is far wiser to build a park there.

Bonnie O'Neil

Newport Beach


Greg Hurley, former environmental engineer and now shill for the pro-airport forces, continues to whine about probable soil pollution at the El Toro base.

The county's plan will tear up all existing runways and excavate to a depth of 50 feet, making the plan the largest earth-moving project in county history. This enormous excavation will distribute the contaminants to the lungs of Orange County residents.

Adding insult to injury, the proposed 840 flights a day will provide an additional 96,000 pounds of air pollutants for us to absorb. Thanks for your concern, Greg, but solvents in the soil of the Great Park are the least of our worries.

Jim Quigley

Laguna Niguel


Yes, El Toro is polluted, and the Navy must be made to clean it up. However, Times readers have been told that only a fraction of El Toro is badly polluted--primarily the ground beneath the runways and major hangars. The county airport plan calls for precisely these polluted areas to be heavily regraded to level the runways to commercial standards. The airport can't be built without disturbing this ground and expelling carcinogens into the air.

The park, on the other hand, can be developed piecemeal, using the more than 4,000 acres of clean land at El Toro and completely avoiding contaminated areas. The proposed park would be much less dangerous to build at El Toro than the airport.

Michael Smith

Mission Viejo


South County growth is accelerating.

Look at the number of single houses now being built and the massive apartment structures appearing in Irvine, the 14,000 homes planned for the O'Neill Ranch and the homes on either side of the San Diego Freeway in the vicinity of Sand Canyon Road.

Just imagine what the housing density will be like if there is no El Toro airport and Irvine fills the 4,700 acres of El Toro's real estate and the 14,000 acres of buffer zone with wall-to-wall housing.

With at least two vehicles per residence, that adds up to a tremendous increase for the existing roads to absorb.

A recent program on KOCE's "Real Orange" discussed the rosy trade picture for Orange County and attributes this to the productivity of the county generally and to the people of South County particularly.

The program stressed that tourism and trade with the Pacific Rim countries will be the biggest factors.

It's time for South County citizens to grow up and realize they are living in a dynamic metropolitan region and their efforts are part of the forces driving this economic engine.

For that trade to become a reality, we cannot rely on LAX or tiny John Wayne. El Toro should be opened as soon as possible.

William Kearns

Costa Mesa


I'm confused. You reported that developing a park at El Toro may be too risky because of soil contamination. As I understand it, the county's airport plan includes a 2,700-acre park that doesn't seem to be mentioned in the report.

Was this an oversight? Has the park been taken out of the airport plan? Are airport supporters conveniently not mentioning it because it would defeat their purpose? Or does jet exhaust have some cleansing effect that I don't know about?

Brad McCown

Mission Viejo

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