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Civilian Exposure - Fort Ord Contamination

Fort Ord Marina CA

by Civilian Exposure

Thanks to feedback from some of our readers indicating interest in Fort Ord, we decided to take a closer look at the Superfund Site and share a variety of sources for more information.

“I have been following the Camp Lejeune story concerning exposure to volatile chemicals. Fort Ord CA has been on the superfund cleanup program for several years (since the 1990’s) and are still having problems with their clean up program. The EPA and Dept. of the Army have several official documents outlined on their websites stating how the clean began in the 1990’s and is still in progress concerning chemicals like TCE, PCE, vinyl chloride, etc. Veterans who served at Fort CA should be made aware of the possible health problems if exposed to contaminated water, soil/air(plumes).”

Fort Ord, the former US Army post on Monterey Bay in California, closed in 1994 under recommendation from the BRAC commission of 1991.  Some of the land has been designated as national monument land while other portions have been considered for commercial development. In exploring a land reuse assessment, various contamination has come to the forefront and been under scrutiny ever since.  Cleanup efforts, like those at many of the military bases out there, is slow.  Cleanup has been underway since the base was closed.

Fort Ord is one of the most complex waste sites in the country.  The groundwater below Fort Ord is contaminated with chemicals that reach past the borders of the Fort and under the City of Marina.  The soil is filled with lead, unexploded ordnance, and other debris; and the air is filled with particulate matter and chemicals when the Army conducts annual burns to clear vegetation.  The final cleanup decision mandated 100-foot buffer zones around the landfills and munitions response areas to protect surrounding properties; nevertheless, the routes of exposure that follow do present ways the public can still come into contact with the contaminants.

There are forty-five (45) chemicals of concern in the air, soil and water at Fort Ord.  These chemicals include heavy metals such as lead and volatile organic compounds like TCE, DCE and Benzene.  The chemicals at Fort Ord are known to cause liver and kidney damage, birth defects, respiratory illness, and lower IQ levels in children, among others.


The following is additional information that we could find on Fort Ord compiled from various internet sources.

There are four identified areas of groundwater contamination under the former Fort Ord. The most frequently detected chemicals in three of these areas are trichloroethene (TCE) and carbon tetrachloride (CT) in the remaining area. The suspected sources, locations, main contaminant, and affected aquifers are:

  1. A burn pit used for fire-fighting practice is the main source of TCE contamination in the A-Aquifer under the former Fritzsche Army Airfield (now the Marina Municipal Airport). This area is called Operable Unit 1 or OU1.
  2. Waste disposal in the Fort Ord landfill resulted in TCE contamination of groundwater in the A-Aquifer, the Upper 180-Foot Aquifer and the Lower 180-Foot Aquifer. This area is called Operable Unit 2 or OU2.
  3. Vehicle maintenance activities in the Main Garrison in the vicinity of 1st Avenue and 12th Street resulted in TCE contamination of groundwater in the Upper 180-Foot Aquifer. This area is called Site 2/12.
  4. Training and equipment maintenance activities in the northern portion of the former Fort Ord (now the Abrams Park housing area) resulted in carbon tetrachloride contamination of groundwater in the A-Aquifer, the Upper 180-Foot Aquifer and the Lower 180-Foot Aquifer. This area is called Operable Unit Carbon Tetrachloride Plume or OUCTP.

Civilian Exposure - Fort Ord Conceptual Models


Groundwater is contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in various locations. One of the contaminated groundwater plumes near the City of Marina migrated off site and has been remediated with no further action required. All the groundwater treatment systems have been constructed and are operational. Contaminated groundwater at Fort Ord is not being used as a drinking water source.

Soils in several vehicle maintenance and motor pool areas, and a 150 acre landfill and some munitions response sites have been contaminated with chemicals that spilled onto the ground. In addition, soils at target ranges are contaminated with lead. These contaminated soils have been addressed, as described below, significantly reducing or eliminating the potential threat to public health.

Munitions and explosives of concern:
Unexploded ordnance and munitions and explosives of concern on an 8,000 acre firing range/impact area and at limited on-site areas may pose safety hazards. Types of ordnance found at Fort Ord include artillery projectiles, rockets, hand grenades, land mines, pyrotechnics, bombs and other demolition materials. The Army has an extensive site security program and they ensure that known munitions sites are fenced, posted with warning signs and are off-limits to unauthorized people.

*Excerpt above from EPA Superfund website and the Fort Ord Cleanup Site

Additional Links & Resources


Additional Links & Resources Updated 8-2016

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Nicholas Boulware May 26, 2016 - 12:02 am

i was stationed at ft ord from 90 to 93 and i have been curious to know if the chemicals found there are the cause of the multiple health problems i have. i was diagnosed with chrones disease 7yrs ago and just recently type 2 diabetes and copd. You would be amazed at the number of other ft ord vets that have the same or worse problems.The va shot down any claim to my problems being service related. the men and woman who served there deserve to know what they were exposed to. I know its closed and cleanup has begun but what about before all that when soldiers lived there and raised families there. We deserve to know, it might not give us our health back but maybe it could help shed some light on our problems.

Civilian Exposure
Civilian Exposure June 2, 2016 - 11:29 am

NB: Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, we’re not surprised about the VA. There’s a news story every day regarding their ineptitude, corruption, cronyism, poor management and service issues, etc. We did a cursory search and I did find this link to a community group out there that might be of help or at least a starting point: http://www.foejn.org/. – GS

Jeffery Brice June 7, 2016 - 10:51 am

I was stationed at fort Ord from 1987-1993, I am suffering from Myasthenia Gravis and type 2 Diabetes. Every since I’ve gotten out, I felt something was wrong with me but could not pen-point what it was. These two conditions were a slow progression, maybe because of my job and fitness (Police Officer). The VA has denied me and my condition is getting worse. I now have to give up my profession and will not have an income to sustain a good quality of life. I’m out of options and feel as though there’s no help for me. Is there some sort of civil lawsuit I can be apart of?

Patrick Fitzgerald January 22, 2017 - 2:03 pm

I was stationed at Ft Ord California 1977 and I have Parkinson’s Disease for over 30 years and Iknow that’s where I develops Parkinson’s why won’t the va recognize that base

Edwin Mendija March 4, 2017 - 11:09 am

I was stationed at Ft ord 1984-86 attached to an Engineer unit. As I’m sure a lot of the units with the 7th did a lot of training in and around the post I’m curious to know what kind of health related issues have been identified because of the contamination of the soil/air not only to us veterans but also of the civilian community surrounding the area? Brings to mine the plight of the Vietnam era veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange…will this gross negligence be pushed under the rug because of the mess that it created and the lives it has affected/destroyed? I sympathize with those who had commented above as I also have been diagnosed with those same illnesses and wonder if we are products of that exposure or just coincidence?

Michael Renucci October 20, 2017 - 7:37 am

I was stationed at fort ord 88 to 91 and have cross disease and recently had for polyps removed from inside my colon which two may be cancerous. My joints always hurt and I shit blood. Even back then I was having to go to medical on base for internal bleading cn someone help us

Miles Gleaton June 17, 2018 - 4:22 am

I was at Ft. Ord 1988 & ’89. I worked on the Airfield, maintained our shop’s trucks on Motor Pool Alley, drove the back dunes every week, and our barracks overlooked the Beach Bunkers. In 1990, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. Controlled it without problem for almost 30 years. Three weeks ago, it was discovered I had Congestive Heart Failure and, at 49, my heart is only putting out 20%. So far, Ft. Ord is the only cause that makes sense.

Tanga McKinstry July 20, 2018 - 12:26 pm

Tanga McKinstry

I was at Ft. Ord Aug 1989 – Jan 1993. I was assigned to the 8th Evacuation Hospital. I had to work in that unit Motor Pool, countless times. In 1990, the 8th Evacuation Hospital was ordered to go to Desert Storm and I was unable to deploy because of pregnancy. I was reassigned to Meddac (Silas B. Hayes) company. I was diagnosed with breast cancer (2 different breast cancers and 2 tumors) in 2015. I am still currently under medical care. I had a genetic test on 42 of my genes and the genetic test came back NEGATIVE! I have not one cancer gene in my body. I was told by the genetics department that my breast cancer was caused by an ENVIRONMENTAL source! The only place that I’m aware that I’ve been exposed to toxins is FORT ORD! Also, my son who was born in 1991 at Silas B. Hayes Hospital on Fort Ord is currently suffering from Chrons disease!
If anyone need to discuss the this any further, contact me @ gangels2010@gmail.com

Barry Thomas April 25, 2019 - 9:18 pm

I was at Fort Ord from Sept 76 to April 79 my barracks was close to the 12th street gate and we trained all over the post I was in CSC 6/31st tow platoon and Im serial never could make any kids, all my brothers and sisters had kids I wonder if that effected me,

Ms Cw October 1, 2019 - 1:43 am

I currently live in Marina old Fort Ord. I was just recently diagnosed with Squamous cell skin Carcinoma.

jerry truesdale October 16, 2019 - 6:17 pm

I also was stationed at FT Ord for 6 months in 1966. I now have cancer. Multiple Myeloma. Also various other problems hypothyroidism included.Been almost a year now but not getting anywhere with the VA recognizing that there was a big problem there..


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