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Whittaker-Bermite groundwater cleanup plan set for public comment

Officials extend commenting period and have scheduled a meeting Thursday

Posted: May 12, 2014 6:06 p.m.
Updated: May 12, 2014 6:06 p.m.

State officials prepped to unveil their seven-year plan to clean up contaminated groundwater on the Whittaker-Bermite site have extended the public comment period from 30 to 49 days in anticipation of an enthusiastic response from the community.

Santa Clarita Valley residents will have a chance this week to weigh in on how officials with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control plan to clean up the groundwater on close to 1,000 acres of contaminated property in the heart of the Santa Clarita Valley.

On Thursday, department officials are holding a public meeting at Santa Clarita City Hall between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. as they unveil their proposed water cleanup plan called the draft Remedial Action Plan.

The meeting is part of a period during which public comment about the cleanup plan will be collected and reviewed by state officials.

Jose Diaz, the cleanup’s senior project manager, said Monday he was going to extend the 30-day public comment period to the end of June.

“The public gets a chance to review the documents prepared for this project,” he said. “At the meeting, we’ll be making a presentation and then provide a chance for the public to provide input.

“We’re going to extend the public comment period to June 30,” he said.

The Whittaker-Bermite location — nearly 1,000 acres in the center of Santa Clarita on the hills south and east of 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.

In 1967 Whittaker Corp. bought the site in 1967 and it was renamed from Bermite to Whittaker. 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, extracting, testing and removing the toxins and harmful vapors from the contaminated soil.

But the Remedial Action Plan that’s the center of Thursday’s meeting addresses the cleanup of three distinct groundwater areas: the Northern Alluvium Area, the Saugus Aquifer and a spot labelled the “Perched Groundwater” area.

Each of the three areas requires its own method of water cleanup, and officials will be recommending which methods they believe are the best approach for each area.

Diaz said he will explain the best way of cleaning up the northern Alluvium Area near the Metrolink Station on Soledad Canyon Road near Bouquet Canyon Road is to have the water pass through filters called “situ permeable” materials. He explained this as: “Water moving through a natural barrier such as wood chips and gravel.

“The problem with implementing this solution now is that, because the groundwater is so low due to drought, we have to wait until the areas are recharged with water,” he said.

As for the Saugus Aquifer, one of the Santa Clarita Valley’s two underground reservoirs, officials plan to drill 14 groundwater wells and pump up groundwater polluted with dangerous chemicals including perchlorate.

Perchlorate has been shown to interfere with uptake of iodide by the thyroid gland and to thereby reduce the production of thyroid hormones, leading to adverse affects associated with inadequate hormone levels.

“It took a lot of work to get to this point, locating where the contamination is concentrated,” Diaz said. “We’ve found the best locations for the wells in pumping the water.”

The “Perched Groundwater” areas are those where pools of collected water that become trapped between the surface and an aquifer by a hard rock layer.

Diaz says “drying out” those pools of collected water is the way to go.

The department will consider all public comments before decisions are made on the seven-year plan to remove contaminated groundwater.

Public comments must be postmarked, faxed or emailed by June 30, 2014, and sent to The Department of Toxic Substances Control.

The complete draft plan can be seen online at .
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt




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