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EPA: $165M Base Cleanup Complete

Thursday, January 30, 2014

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The U.S. Navy’s 20-year, $165 million cleanup of hazardous waste at a California air base is nearly complete, clearing the way to redevelop the land with new houses and businesses.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday (Jan. 27) that it had.removed more than 1,900 acres of El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Irvine, CA, from the National Priorities List of Superfund sites.

Still, about $50 million in cleanup remains to be done, EPA said.

The Navy is conducting the cleanup on behalf of the Marine Corps.

El Toro MCAS Superfund
Wikimedia Commons

The El Toro site was developed in 1942 and added to the Superfund list in 1990. More than 1,900 of the site's 4,700 acres have been cleaned up.

The El Toro site covers about 4,712 acres in the City of Irvine, Orange County, CA. Developed in 1942, the base was used to support the Fleet Marine Forces in the Pacific Ocean and served as the major West Coast jet fighter facility.

El Toro was added to EPA's Superfund NPL list in 1990 and officially decommissioned as an active base in 1999.

An EPA Superfund site is an uncontrolled or abandoned place where hazardous waste was located, possibly affecting the local ecosystem or people.

Groundwater, Soil Contamination

At El Toro, two large aircraft hangars were the primary source of volatile organic compounds, and groundwater  was contaminated by military operations using trichloroethylene and other VOCs. Soil contamination included polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

The Navy used soil sampling and excavation to clean up the hazardous waste.

According to the EPA, the Navy has spent about $165 million on the cleanup. Remaining work is estimated to cost another $50 million.

"This milestone is what the Superfund program is all about—ensuring land is free of contamination so it can be put back into use," said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA's Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest.

"The creation of green space and sports facilities at the El Toro site will benefit the more than 3 million residents living in Orange County," Blumenfeld said.

Orange County Great Park

Large aircraft hangars at the site contaminated groundwater with VOCs. The Navy has spent $165 million on the cleanup so far.

All environmental impacts of 112 locations at the site were throroughly investigated, and appropriate cleanup actions were performed to protect human health and the environment, the EPA determined. The delisting, finalized Jan. 21, was part of an ongoing collaboration by the EPA, Navy and the state of California.

No further cleanup is needed at this portion of the site, other than periodic review, EPA said

Residential, Commercial Re-Use

Heritage Fields El Toro LLC owns 1,200 acres of the 1,900 acres deleted from the list. Heritage Fields plans to redevelop most of the property with 9,500 new houses and space for commercial, retail and other non-residential facilities.

The other 700 acres were transferred to the City of Irvine to develop Orange County Great Park.

"I thank the EPA for its consideration and decision," said Jeffrey Lalloway, Chair of the Great Park Board of Directors and Mayor Pro Tem of Irvine.

This announcement is another important step forward in the evolution of the Orange County Great Park and our efforts to transition the former base into a unique public asset for residents of Irvine and Orange County."

The park will include a tournament-quality sports complex, a wildlife corridor and a golf course, according to the EPA.

Future land use is an integral part of the Superfund process and gives communities the chance to productively use sites after cleanup, the EPA said. Over 2,000 communities across the country currently use sites for "virtually every type of land use."

The EPA said it continued to work on the remainder of the site, including operating a groundwater extraction and treatment system, and monitoring of capped landfills and groundwater.

   

Tagged categories: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); EPA; Hazardous waste; VOC content

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