Hazardous Toxic & Radioactive Waste At George Air Force Base, CA

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George AFB’s Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP)

Victorville Army Airfield / George Air Force Base (AFB) used organochlorine pesticides, before they were banned, to protect its buildings against termites and other pests. The following pesticides and their breakdown products were detected under and around the George AFB Family Housing: aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, and lindane. The levels of aldrin, dieldrin, and chlordane and their breakdown products were so high that the Base Family Housing was barred for residential use when the property was transferred to the Southern California Logistics Airport Authority in 2007. However, the Air Force refused to disclose the use of these pesticides or test the soils at any property except the Base Family Housing. This means that there was no testing done at the George AFB Schools, Barracks, Dorms, or the common areas where children would play (playgrounds, parks, baseball diamond, or pool).   See: George AFB’s Schools

The high number of reported miscarriages, stillbirths, infant mortalities, childhood cancers, and infertility in women and girls who lived in the Base Family Housing may be partly due to the persistent, cumulative nature, and synergistic interaction of these pesticides/toxins. Unfortunately, the average length of time that we were stationed at a base was 4 to 6 years. Because of this, we lived with our families at one contaminated base after another, and the number of and levels of toxins kept building in our systems, often with fatal results, especially for our children.  See: Air Force Superfund Site

While this article outlines the problems with Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) at George AFB, nearly every military base in the US has or has had the same problems.


Persistent organic pollutants (POPs)

These organochlorine pesticides are classified as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and were banned by a coalition of ninety countries in 2001 because POPs can adversely affect human health, can be transported by wind and water far from where they are used, persist for long periods of time in the environment, and bio-accumulate.

Organochlorine pesticides levels at the George AFB Family Housing

In 2002, aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, and lindane were detected under and around the George AFB Family Housing. On 1 October 2007, the levels of these persistent organochlorine pesticides and their breakdown products was so high that the Air Force banned the property and housing for residential use.

  • In November 2002, the Air Force knew that the soil under and around the George AFB Family Housing was contaminated with hazardous levels of organochlorine pesticides
    • aldrin at 16, 700 μg/kg – 576 x PRG – Sample Depth (ft. bgs): 0.3-0.8
    • dieldrin at 15,000 μg/kg – 500 x PRG – Sample Depth (ft. bgs): 0.3-0.8
    • chlordane at 24,100 μg/kg – 15 x PRG – Sample Depth (ft. bgs): 0.5-1

PRG: residential preliminary remediation goal
ft. bgs: feet below ground surface

  • On 1 October 2007, the Air Force placed the following conditional use clause in the George AFB Family Housing quitclaim deed: “Grantee covenants and agrees that it will not use, or allow others to use, the Property for residential purposes (including mobile or modular homes), hospitals for human care, public or private schools for persons under 18 years of age, nursery schools, or day care centers for children.”
  • As of 17 January 2015, the Air Force has failed to notify the former base personnel, their families, civilian employees, and the surrounding community of their exposure to potentially life-threatening environmental contamination at George AFB’s Family Housing.
Highest Results – Organochlorine Pesticides In Soil Family Housing
Extracted Pages – Organochlorine Pesticides In Soil Family Housing

George AR # 1773 – Organochlorine Pesticides Soil Family Housing

2014 – LRWQCB Land Use Controls Violation

CERCLA §120(h) Deed Restrictions

The Army and/or Air Force used the organochlorine pesticides aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endosulfan, endrin, heptachlor, and lindane to protect the older buildings (pre-1986) against ground termites and other pests at George AFB including the Base Schools, Family Housing, Barracks, and Dorms.

  • The DOD and the Air Force failed to test for these organochlorine pesticides except at the Base Family Housing Units.
  • The DOD and the Air Force failed to disclose the widespread use of these organochlorine pesticides in the CERCLA §120(h) Deed Restrictions as required by law except for at the Base Family Housing Units.
  • The DOD and the Air Force failed to test the soils at the former George AFB Elementary School and George Junior High (Middle) School for dieldrin.
  • The DOD and the Air Force failed to disclose that dangerous levels of aldrin, dieldrin, and chlordane were present at the Base Family Housing Units in the CERCLA §120(h) Deed Restrictions as required by law.
  • The DOD and the Air Force failed to disclose the widespread use of these organochlorine pesticides to the ATSDR for its 1998 Public Health Assessment for George AFB. When the ATSDR concluded that there were no completed exposure pathways, the DOD and the Air Force did not correct the ATSDR during the  Peer Review / Public Comments period or after the Public Health Assessment for George AFB was published in 1998.

See: George AFB’s Housing and George AFB’s Schools

Quitclaim Deed – Family Housing – Parcel D7-8-9 F1 G2 J1-2-3-5-6-7 J-A

CovenantsDocument

NOTICE

BREACH OF ANY ENVIRONMENTAL RESTRICTIVE COVENANT IN SUBPARAGRAPH VII.B. BELOW, MAY AFFECT THE FOREGOING WARRANTY

VII.B. Environmental Restrictive Covenants.

(e) Grantee covenants and agrees that it will not use, or allow others to use, the Property for residential purposes (including mobile or modular homes), hospitals for human care, public or private schools for persons under 18 years of age, nursery schools, or day care centers for children.
Page 5 of 14

VIII. OTHER COVENANTS

  1. Pesticides. The Grantee is warned of the presence of Dieldrin or other possible pesticide-related constituents (“Pesticides”) on the Property in certain portions of the soil and in the upper aquifer of the groundwater, which may have resulted from past applications of pesticides. The Grantee is cautioned to use due care during use, occupancy, and Property development activities that may involve soils containing Pesticides. …
    Page 7 of 14

The Persistent Organic Pollutants at George AFB

Persistent Organic Pollutants Pesticides

  • Aldrin –  Insecticides used for termite control – air and soil
  • Chlordane  –  Insecticide used on home lawn and garden pests also used extensively to control termites – air and soil
  • DDT – Insecticide
  • Dieldrin  –  Insecticides used for termite control – air, soil, and groundwater
  • Endrin –   Insecticide also used to control rodents – air and soil
  • Heptachlor –  Insecticide used primarily against soil insects and termites – air and soil

These pesticides/insecticides were used to protect the older wooden buildings’ foundations against ground termites and other pests at George AFB.

Persistent Organic Pollutants Dioxins and Furans

  • Dioxins and Furans were released into the air, soil, and groundwater at George AFB by the “unlined open-air burn pits” and “incinerators” (without an air scrubber to remove toxic chemicals)

Persistent Organic Pollutants’ Cumulative and Synergistic Interactions

A Cumulative Risk Assessment for all of the Persistent Organic Pollutants released at George AFB needs to be conducted because of the enhanced toxic effects of multiple POPs exposures. For example, what is considered a “safe level” of exposure to a single Persistent Organic Pollutant cannot be considered a “safe level” if the exposure consists of several Persistent Organic Pollutants. This occurred at the Base Family Housing where the tenants were exposed to pesticides aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, and lindane, and dioxin, which was released by the burn pits and incinerators. The synergistic and cumulative effects of these POPs is devastating, and would explain the high infant mortality rate at George AFB. See: George AFB’s Children

Health Effects of Aldrin, Chlordane, Dieldrin, Endrin, and Heptachlor

According to the EPA, contact with contaminated soil or ingestion or inhalation of aldrin, chlordane, dieldrin, endrin, and/or heptachlor can:

  • Cause birth defects
  • Cause breast cancer
  • Cause cancer
  • Cause Parkinson’s disease
  • Damage the kidneys
  • Decrease the effectiveness of our immune system
  • Increase infant mortality
  • Reduce reproductive success

Organophosphates Pesticides

The Persistent Organic Pollutant Dioxin

The DOD released dioxin into the air, soil and groundwater via the numerous unlined open-air burn pits and incinerators (without an air scrubber to remove toxic chemicals).

See: George AFB’s Burn Pits and Incinerators

Health Effects of Dioxins

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dioxins are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones, and also cause cancer.

The “Dirty Dozen” Persistent Organic Pollutants

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants identified an initial twelve chemicals or chemical groups for priority action.
POPGLOBAL HISTORICAL USE/SOURCEOVERVIEW OF U.S. STATUS
aldrin and dieldrinInsecticides used on crops such as corn and cotton; also used for termite control.Under FIFRA:
  • No U.S. registrations; most uses canceled in 1969; all uses by 1987.
  • All tolerances on food crops revoked in 1986.

No production, import, or export.chlordaneInsecticide used on crops, including vegetables, small grains, potatoes, sugarcane, sugar beets, fruits, nuts, citrus, and cotton. Used on home lawn and garden pests. Also used extensively to control termites.Under FIFRA:

  • No U.S. registrations; most uses canceled in 1978; all uses by 1988.
  • All tolerances on food crops revoked in 1986.

No production (stopped in 1997), import, or export.
Regulated as a hazardous air pollutant (CAA).DDTInsecticide used on agricultural crops, primarily cotton, and insects that carry diseases such as malaria and typhus.Under FIFRA: No U.S. registrations; most uses canceled in

  • 1972; all uses by 1989.
  • Tolerances on food crops revoked in 1986.

No U.S. production, import, or export.
DDE (a metabolite of DDT) regulated as a hazardous air pollutant (CAA).
Priority toxic pollutant (CWA).endrinInsecticide used on crops such as cotton and grains; also used to control rodents.Under FIFRA, no U.S. registrations; most uses canceled in 1979; all uses by 1984.
No production, import, or export.
Priority toxic pollutant (CWA).mirexInsecticide used to combat fire ants, termites, and mealybugs.
Also used as a fire retardant in plastics, rubber, and electrical products.Under FIFRA, no U.S. registrations; all uses canceled in 1977.
No production, import, or export.heptachlorInsecticide used primarily against soil insects and termites. Also used against some crop pests and to combat malaria.Under FIFRA:

  • Most uses canceled by 1978; registrant voluntarily canceled use to control fire ants in underground cable boxes in early 2000.
  • All pesticide tolerances on food crops revoked in 1989.
    No production, import, or export.

hexachlorobenzeneFungicide used for seed treatment.
Also an industrial chemical used to make fireworks, ammunition, synthetic rubber, and other substances.
Also unintentionally produced during combustion and the manufacture of
certain chemicals.
Also an impurity in certain pesticides.Under FIFRA, no U.S. registrations; all uses canceled by 1985.
No production, import, or export as a pesticide.
Manufacture and use for chemical intermediate (as allowed under the Convention).
Regulated as a hazardous air pollutant (CAA).
Priority toxic pollutant (CWA).PCBsUsed for a variety of industrial processes and purposes, including in electrical transformers and capacitors, as heat exchange fluids, as paint additives, in carbonless copy paper, and in plastics.
Also unintentionally produced during combustion.Manufacture and new use prohibited in 1978 (TSCA).
Regulated as a hazardous air pollutant (CAA).
Priority toxic pollutant (CWA).toxapheneInsecticide used to control pests on crops and livestock, and to kill unwanted fish in lakes.Under FIFRA:

  • No U.S. registrations; most uses canceled in 1982;
  • all uses by 1990.
  • All tolerances on food crops revoked in 1993.

No production, import, or export.
Regulated as a hazardous air pollutant (CAA).

dioxins and furansUnintentionally produced during most forms of combustion, including burning of municipal and medical wastes, backyard burning of trash, and industrial processes.
Also can be found as trace contaminants in certain herbicides, wood preservatives, and in PCB mixtures.Regulated as hazardous air pollutants (CAA).
Dioxin in the form of 2,3,7,8-TCDD is a priority toxic pollutant (CWA). Source accessed on 12/25/2014: EPA

George AFB History

George AFB, originally called the Victorville Army Airfield, was constructed between 1941 and 1943 as a flight training school. After World War II, the base was placed on standby status and used for surplus aircraft storage. The base was reopened in 1950 under the command of the newly created U.S. Air Force and renamed George Air Force Base. Flight training remained the primary mission of this base throughout its history and a number of bomber, glider, single engine, twin engine, and jet fighter aircrafts were flown there. George AFB was a major training facility for the Air Force’s F-4 Phantom and was the home of the 35th Tactical Fighter Wing (U.S. Air Force, 1997c).

In 1988, George AFB was scheduled in the first round of base closures passed by Congress under the Base Realignment and Closure program. The base was officially decommissioned in December 1992. In 1993, President Clinton announced a “Five Part Plan” to speed economic recovery in communities where military bases were to be closed. One part of this plan called for improving public participation in the base’s environmental cleanup program. George AFB was among a number of installations where environmental cleanup was placed on a “fast track” so that base property could be quickly transferred to the community for reuse (U.S. Air Force, 1997c).

See: ATSDR Site Description and History

Definitions:

  • Bioaccumulate: to become concentrated inside the bodies of living things
  • Organochlorine pesticides: POPs made out of organochlorine compounds.  These organochlorine compounds and there metabolites can cross the placental barrier and accumulate in lipid rich tissues such as human breast and breast milk
  • Persistent organic pollutants (POPs): organic compounds of natural or anthropogenic origin that resist photolytic, chemical and / or biological degradation (UNEP, 1999)
  • Persistent: extremely resistant to natural breakdown processes and therefore are stable and long-lived
  • Pollutants: toxic chemicals which adversely affect human health
  • Synergistic interaction: the effect of two chemicals taken together which is greater than the sum of their separate effect at the same doses

Acronyms:

  • AF – United States Air Force
  • CAA: Clean Air Act
  • CERCLA: Superfund or Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980
  • CWA: Clean Water Act
  • EPA – United States Environmental Protection Agency
  • FIFRA: Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act
  • DOD – United States  Department of Defense
  • POPs – Persistent Organic Pollutants
  • TSCA: Toxic Substances Control Act
  • WHO – World Health Organization
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