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Officials to release Whittaker-Bermite cleanup plan

Land contains soil toxins, some of which has leaked into the valley’s groundwater

Posted: March 10, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 10, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Santa Clarita Valley residents will get a chance to scrutinize for themselves the ongoing cleanup of Whittaker-Bermite next month when officials release a plan for the many agencies involved to work together and rid the site of toxins.

The plan will outline for the public both how the many agencies involved in cleaning the site will proceed and what specific work is being done, officials said last week during a joint meeting of the involved agencies held at Santa Clarita City Hall.

The Whittaker-Bermite location, nearly 1,000 acres in the center of Santa Clarita on the hills south and east of the Saugus Speedway, was a working munitions manufacturing site from the 1930s through 1980s. Its soil is contaminated in specific locations, and some of that contamination has leaked into the valley’s groundwater.

Hassan Amini, geologist for the primary contractor handling the efforts, said cleanup officials have finalized their remedial action plan and have submitted it to the state agency monitoring the cleanup — the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.

“The remedial action plan should be made available to the public on April 28,” Amini told a gathering of about 20 concerned members of the public.

The plan isn’t the first released on site cleanup. But it is required by the Environmental Protection Agency as the process proceeds.

Cleanup is expected to switch into high gear soon, Amini said, once electricity is brought to the site.

Last Monday, Amini and others met with a representative of Southern California Edison to make that happen. “We are moving forward with their help to bring power to that site,” Amini said. “We need a lot of power.

“We will be hiring an electrical company that will be installing lines into those remedial areas,” he said.

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control has paid particular attention to volatile organic compounds, commonly called VOCs, in Operable Units 2 through 6.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary, room-temperature conditions.

It’s this pressure that causes large numbers of its molecules to change from its liquid or solid forms directly into the air.

Many VOCs, according to the EPA, are dangerous to humans and harmful to the environment.

Last month, cleanup officials hired a consultant to locate the source of VOCs at Whittaker-Bermite, said Brian J. Folsom, engineering and operations manager for the Castaic Lake Water Agency.

“All purveyors are committed to finding the source of the VOCs,” he said last week. “Hopefully, by June, we’ll have an update for you on that.”

Identifying the location of toxins on the sprawling property has been one of the many challenges faced by the agencies.

The original business on the Whitakker-Bermite site was called the Bermite Powder Co. At the time it was built, the location was relatively isolated.

In 1967 Whittaker Corp. bought the site and it was renamed Whittaker-Bermite. Although the property is now owned by another firm, Whittaker — through its insurer — is financially responsible for cleaning it up.

Besides Whittaker’s main contractor, AMEC, there are six to a dozen subcontractors involved with digging, extraction, testing and removing the toxins and harmful vapors.


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