Base Says No Change in Plans for Landfills


Military officials said Wednesday that they will not spend more money to clean up landfill sites on the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, maintaining that their proposal is enough to satisfy federal mandates.

The controversy over the cleanup at the 4,700-acre base has been raging for years and has raised concerns not only from state environmental agencies but from county water district officials, who fear the toxins are contaminating the ground water.

The California Environmental Protection Agency had stated in its review of the military’s proposal for cleanup that base officials may have to go further in cleaning up the two landfill sites.


At a hearing Wednesday of the base’s Restoration Advisory Board, which comprises military officials, private citizens and officials of county agencies, the Marines made it clear that they were going to move forward with their original plans.

The military is proposing to cap the two landfills with 4 feet of earth and then monitor their progress for the next 15 to 20 years. This solution, they say, will be sufficient to turn the property over to Orange County in July 1999. County officials are planning to turn the military base into a commercial airport.

Going any further than simply capping the soil would be prohibitive in cost, military officials said.

“We cannot go beyond a certain point and use federal tax dollars to extend those remedies,” said Capt. Matt Morgan, a base spokesman.

But critics including the California EPA contend that without a landfill cover--a plastic liner around the dirt area to keep the contaminated soil from seeping out--the problem will not be solved.

The county has planned to turn part of the landfill area into a golf course, which could present problems if irrigation causes the contaminated soil to leak.


“If this were a landfill out in the middle of the desert, there is no question that this is the correct solution,” said Greg Hurley, co-chair of the advisory board. “But I think you have to factor in the real world issues of this site. There are a lot of economic pressures to develop this site, and there hasn’t been enough information on the implications of the [landfill policy].”

But military officials point out that the county’s development plans are not final and that county officials are well aware that the landfill areas will not be able to accommodate projects that would generate heavy traffic.

County and military officials will meet to discuss this subject in February. The military’s final plan for the landfill is due in the next two months.

The federal government has spent more than $56 million for investigation and cleanup at the base, and it estimates an additional $166.4 million will go to complete the studies and do the cleanup.

Already, 11 of the 28 contaminated sites have been cleaned up, military officials said.