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Cam Noltemeyer: A community advisory alert

Environmentally Speaking

Posted: December 2, 2009 10:02 p.m.
Updated: December 3, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Did you receive a Community Assessment Survey for the former Whittaker-Bermite site from the Department of Toxic Substances Control?

Do you have some time to give to your community to ensure a complete and safe cleanup of this contaminated 996-acre property in the middle of the city of Santa Clarita?

It is bordered by Railroad Avenue to the west, Soledad Canyon Road to the north and Golden Valley Road to the east.
Would you like to know more about the hundreds of chemicals that have contaminated the soil and our water supply and what it is going to take to clean it up?

Do you care about how it may have or can affect the health and safety of our community?

If you do, then the time is now for you to get involved and have your say.

Even if you didn't receive a survey or bother to return it, your input is very important.

Only if this community shows it cares and demands a complete cleanup of this property can we be sure future generations will not be faced with continued threats to our community.

For many years, the Whittaker-Bermite facility made and tested ordnance for the military. Many of the chemicals in the soil such as NDMA, TCE and PCE that seeped into the groundwater have been found to be cancer-causing.

Ammonium perchlorate, another pollutant used in the manufacturing operation, interrupts thyroid production and may cause retardation in small children and fetuses.

When ammonium perchlorate was discovered, the water agencies had to close down the contaminated wells.

That reduced our water supply and it will take many years and cost millions of dollars to clean up the problem. The cleanup facilities for the water are still not operating.

A Castaic Lake Water Agency board member has expressed concerns about drilling a new well in the Santa Clara River in the area of the Whittaker-Bemite property.

Recent groundwater tests indicated the presence of additional chemical pollutants in the ground water. These include NDMA, PCE and TCE.

While the focus has been on cleaning up the ammonium perchlorate pollution, these cancer-causing pollutants may have been ignored.

Now, new tests - including Environmental Protection Agency protocol 521 - have been developed and should be used here to evaluate our water.

This is an example of why our community needs to re-establish its "Community Advisory Group."

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control is the agency in charge of the cleanup. It want to ensure that the local community is informed of progress and procedures and have an opportunity to give input and provide information.

Once a pollution site receives a cleanup order, a CAG can be established by the local community. Such a committee was formed for the Whittaker-Bermite site in the Santa Clarita Valley, but stopped meeting a year or so ago.

Pressure to develop an area such as the Whittaker-Bermite site and a corresponding pressure to reduce costs may result in skimping on cleanup if no one is watching. That was the whole purpose of establishing a CAG - to make sure the cleanup was thorough and in the public's interest.

The cleanup at the Whittaker-Bermite site was divided into seven operable units, or OUs for cleanup purposes. Only the first of these units has seen some cleanup. It had been subdivided into six sub-units. There are still questions regarding deep soil cleanup.

The cleanup was only for the surface soil. Contaminants deeper in the soil will continue to pollute the groundwater if they are not cleaned up.

Operating units 2 through 6 will have their comment period in the next two months. This is your chance to be informed and get involved. Operating unit 7 is for water.

These issues will be discussed at the next meeting of the multi-jurisdictional task force, on Dec. 9 from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Century Conference Room at Santa Clarita City Hall, located at 23920 Valencia Boulevard. The CAG used to meet right after this multi-jurisdiction meeting of local and oversight agencies.

We urge members of the public to attend and stay to re-form a CAG for the Whittaker-Bermite site.

We must be involved and take responsibility in our community if we want a clean and healthy place to live. Participation is what democracy is all about.

See you Dec. 9.

Cam Noltemeyer is a Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment (SCOPE) board member and a Santa Clarita resident. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Environmentally Speaking" appears Thursdays in The Signal and rotates among local environmentalists.


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