Irvine City Manager Says Drinking Water Critics Are All Wet

Groups that are purporting to be concerned about high concentrations of toxins in Irvine's drinking water today received a strong rebuke from City Manager Sean Joyce.

Marsha Taylor of El Toro Now!, the group of mostly John Wayne Airport-impacted Newport Beach residents clinging to the idea of a commercial airport being built over the former El Toro Marines Corps Air Station -- now known as the future Great Park -- has for months been alerting local press, Irvine residents and Marines and their families worried their health problems are related to exposure to deadly El Toro toxins to reports she claims shows the city, the Navy and the Irvine Ranch Water District are conspiring to cover up the unsafe drinking water gurgling underground.

Currently, the El Toro Now! website -- just below a solicitation for emails from Irvine residents experiencing health problems and next to the photo here of the Great Park's orange balloon with the words "Great Park Toxic Dump Site Here" Photoshopped in -- is "breaking news" about a "shocking memo" from 2001 that claims the contamination plume under El Toro is at least six miles long as opposed to the previously believed three miles long.

The city has hosted presentations by members of its staff, the Navy and the water district to counter what it calls "false claims," but the stories like the one above keep spreading through town like, well, a toxic plume. So now comes Joyce stepping up with his stern letter to Taylor.

"Numerous facilities to extract and treat the groundwater contaminated by trichloroethylene (TCE) originating from the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station (ETMCAS) are in place and operating effectively and safely," Joyce writes. "As has been stated in the past and thoroughly documented through water quality testing, the TCE plume from ETMCAS is not impacting the Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD) drinking water wells. We cannot say this more strongly; the water in Irvine is safe to drink. 

"Your accusations run counter to the wealth of scientific evidence supporting the safety of the water, and the credibility of your accusations are greatly diminished because: 1) your primary sources of information are materials posted by an organization that has ignored all efforts by IRWD to correct their errors and misstatements,  2) you ignore extensive scientific evidence and cite instead an erroneous memo from the Center for Public Environmental Oversight that contains no proof of the allegations, and 3) you have refused at least three previous offers to meet and discuss your concerns."

(Taylor also refused to meet with the Weekly, saying she prefers to stay in the background.)

Joyce accuses Taylor of sending e-mails and posting items on the internet that contain "erroneous information" since July 2008, including even a "fabricated newspaper article." Taylor is accused of making "unsubstantiated health-related accusations regarding the clean-up efforts at the former ETMCAS." Attempts by the city and water district to get inaccuracies corrected have gone unheeded, Joyce claims.

"Since the plume was first discovered in 1994, the City, the United States Navy and IRWD have conducted numerous public meetings and met with many concerned citizens as part of our joint commitment to an open process with plentiful information," Joyce writes. ". . .  The water provided by IRWD is subject to extensive testing by State certified water quality laboratories that must follow procedures set forth in State law."

Joyce ends by offering to have the city, the Navy and the water district meet with her to discuss the plume and the clean-up program.

The toxic balloon is now in Taylor's court . . .


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