A study released by an environmental consulting firm Thursday found that unless the Marines take extra measures to protect two landfills at the El Toro base, the county's plans to build a golf course on the site may be jeopardized.
The study, conducted by the engineering firm McCutchen Doyle, said the county's plans to place a golf course adjacent to the runways as part of its proposed airport plan may be "incompatible" with the remediation proposed by the military.
The Marines are proposing to place a 4-foot soil cap on the landfills.
But county officials have said that they would prefer a protective plastic covering, plus gas-collection and drainage layers over the sites.
The county's study concurs with state and federal environmental regulatory agencies, which have said that without a plastic layer there is a danger that noxious gases could be released into the air if moisture from the golf course comes in contact with waste from the landfills.
The recommendations will be included as part of the county's response to the military's clean-up plans for the base, which are scheduled to be released before the Marines turn the property over to the county in the fall of 1999, said Candace Haggard, manager of special projects for the El Toro development plan.
The additional steps to cover the landfills would add $2.9 million to the estimated $30.9-million cost for covering all four of the base's landfills, Haggard said.
The county concurs with the Marines that covering two of the four landfills--which are away from the proposed golf course--with soil is adequate, she said.
She said future liability would become an issue only if the county decided to change the covers after they have been installed.
"We're asking them to install a different remedy upfront," Haggard said.
But Marine officials say that due to a limited budget, they cannot afford to spend more money on landfill remediation. Their solution is safe, though a golf course would not be suited for the site, according to officials.
"The remediation we have planned protects human health and the environment and meets all regulatory requirements," said Capt. Robert McCarthy, base spokesman.
If county officials take it upon themselves to place the plastic layer at the sites, they could be held liable for future environmental problems at the base, which is still on the list of Superfund sites, according to McCarthy.
"If you mess with the solution then you assume liability," said McCarthy.