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Cam Noltemeyer: Whittaker Bermite: What Now?

Posted: June 28, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 28, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Sometimes, when there is one problem after another, you just have to ask, “What now”?

That seems to be the way the cleanup of the contaminated 996-acre Whittaker Bermite site in the center of Santa Clarita is going. Just when one problem has been taken care of, it really isn’t, and another is added to the list.

As reported by the Department of Toxic Substances Control website and new information from the California Health Department, here are a few of the ongoing and new problems:

• Toxic Substances Control reports that it has not yet signed off on the first cleanup area. Perchlorate and volatile organic compounds are chemicals of concern in the soil in this area.

• No final sign-off has been received on the Depleted Uranium Investigation. The Public Health Department, Radiological Health Branch, has indicated it may require an independent survey for verification before signing off. (Could this be because of the way the removal was done last year when 214 unmarked truckloads of contaminated soil moved through public streets without any public notice?)

• No remedial action plan has been approved for the contaminated water on site (although several interim measures are in place).

• An unexploded ordinance and explosives investigation started March 26, and is not yet completed.

The Public Health Department tracks the contamination levels in the off-site pump-and-treat system that the Castaic Lake Water Agency installed on Saugus Well 1 and 2. More problems have sprung up in this area of the cleanup.

These wells were classified as pumping from an extremely contaminated source. In response to community concerns, the Health Department approved their use with many conditions to protect the public. One required perchlorate and other identified contaminants to test as “non-detect” before blending the water into our drinking supply.

This proved to be important, since in September 2011, Public Health reported that low levels of perchlorate and other contaminants such as trichloroethylene were detected in the treatment plant effluent and distribution system sampling points. There was concern that rising contaminant levels in Saugus 1 were approaching the shutdown conditions established in the permit. Public Health is working with Castaic Lake Water Agency to correct the problem.

The pump-and-treat system was supposed to stop the spread of the toxic plume. It seems that this has not happened. Valencia well 201 tested positive for perchlorate in August 2010.

The Public Health Department requested new modeling of the contamination and increased the monitoring frequency of threatened wells to quarterly rather than annually.

The Whittaker Bermite Citizens Advisory Group provides information to the community about the cleanup and brings community concerns to the oversight agencies.

We also provide a forum where the community can hear from and ask questions of those directly involved with the cleanup of the site.

In February, the Citizens Advisory Group requested the status of all wells threatened by the pollution plume.

The Health Department replied that the contaminant trichloroethylene was still detected at various sites where the treated water from Saugus Well 1 and 2 entered the water supply. It noted that other procedures may be needed to comply with the permit conditions intended to protect public health. This month, a request to the Health Department regarding well status revealed that Valencia Well 201 was still closed, and in May Valencia Well 205 had a first detection of contamination. The Health Department noted well 205 was shut down.

Two new well closures: What now? Where is the requested modeling to track the plume? When will we have enforcement of the conditions of the permit granted by the Department of Health?

The Citizens Advisory Group will be asking those questions and more at its next meeting. We invite you to come and find out what is really happening. Please join us at 7 p.m. July 11 at the Santa Clarita United Methodist Church, 26640 Bouquet Canyon Road.

Cam Noltemeyer is a Valencia resident and a Whittaker Bermite Citizens Advisory Group board member.




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