Muffled explosions scheduled at Whittaker-Bermite site

The view from the top of the Whittaker-Bermite site shows Entrance Valley that includes many old buildings -- some from the munitions factory, others just movie props. KATHARINE LOTZE/Signal 07102014

Officials plan to start blowing stuff up in the center of Santa Clarita next week.

State officials overseeing the cleanup of nearly 1,000 acres on the Whittaker-Bermite site are scheduled to detonate old explosive materials, a spokesman for the California Department of Toxic Substances Control said Tuesday.

Santa Clarita Valley residents need not be concerned about the sound of loud explosions set off during the week-long ordinance exploding schedule, Department spokesman and Project Manager for the site Jose Diaz told The Signal Tuesday.

Work is scheduled to begin Monday, Oct. 3, and is expected to be completed in six working days.

Detonation is expected to occur on October 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, and 12. All work will be conducted between the hours of 7:00 am and 5:00 pm.

“Santa Clarita is not going to hear anything,” he said. “The nearest person is going to be 100 yards from the explosions.

“We have barriers, vibration blankets, dirt, plywood and sand bags in place,” Diaz said.

Blast pit

The explosives are to be detonated in most contaminated area of Whittaker-Bermite known as Burn Valley, in a “blast pit” four to five feet below the ground’s surface, he said.

The demolition area is at the bottom of a box canyon, surrounded by steep hills.

Demolition operations are scheduled to be carried out in the East Fork Landfill at the site in accordance with the 2002 DTSC approved Remedial Action Workplan, Diaz said.

Commercial explosives will be delivered to the site on the day of the scheduled demolition.

Once the items to be demolished are placed in the “blast pit”, they’ll be surrounded by explosives and the area will be filled with soil and tamped down. When this is complete the items will be detonated.

The nearest residential development is located more than 4,400 feet from the demolition location and the nearest occupied building is located over 1,400 feet from the demolition location.

For the past three decades, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control has been overseeing the investigation and cleanup of hazardous substances on 996 acres in the heart of the Santa Clarita Valley.


For more than half a century, private companies operating on the Whittaker-Bermite site in the heart of the Santa Clarita Valley manufactured and tested dynamite and fireworks.

Since 1983, the Toxic Substances department has been cleaning up the land contaminated by various companies within the industry.

Now the time has come for state officials to “safely and effectively” destroy Munitions and Explosives of Concern – called MECs – at the site, Diaz said.

During the MEC surveys conducted by Whittaker’s contractors, a number of items were recovered in the last couple of years that require demolition.

These items are being temporarily stored at the site and have been determined to be either potentially energetic (i.e., old powder) materials or materials that cannot be confirmed as safe and inactive and as such will need to be destroyed.

Flares, missile parts

There’s a lot that could go boom on the Whittaker-Bermite site.

Dynamite was manufactured there in the mid-’30s by the Los Angeles Powder Company.

In 1936, the Halifax Explosives Company moved in and spent the next six years making fireworks.

After that, according to research conducted by the Toxic Substances Department, E.P. Halliburton Inc. reportedly began making oil field explosives at the site.

Coated magnesium flash flares and other photoflash devices used in the Vietnam War were manufactured by the Bermite Powder Company.

Between 1942 and 1967, the company also made detonators, fuses and stabilized red phosphorous.

The Whittaker Corp. carried on the explosive tradition, making ammunition rounds, boosters, more flares, more detonators, signal cartridges, glow plugs (used to heat the combustion chamber of diesel engines in cold conditions), tracer and pyrophoric pellets (fragments that spark spontaneously), igniters, ignition compositions, explosive bolts (designed to separate cleanly along a set fracture), powder charges, rocket motors, gas generators and missile parts.

Now all that material is part of the ongoing cleanup, and scheduled demolition.


As for the demolition operation planned at the Whittaker Bermite facility, it will be managed by Jay Ferguson, a Project Manager from Janus Global Operations.

Ferguson, according to Diaz, managed munitions response projects at this site for the past seven years and is a former Air Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal Officer.

He is also a Civil Engineering Officer in the 134th Air National Guard and recently returned from providing Project Management support on the Island of Guam.

All work is expected to be conducted in accordance with a site-specific health and safety plan. A site supervisor and a health and safety officer will be at the site to oversee the work.

Measures to protect the community during this period of work include soil sampling and air monitoring.

[email protected]


on Twitter @jamesarthurholt




Related To This Story

Latest NEWS