Construction of a pedestrian bridge linking the Villa Metro community to the Metrolink Station on Soledad Canyon Road is expected to be completed in May despite opposition by some environmentalists concerned about work affecting the contaminated Whittaker-Bermite site.
The grading of soil between the Whittaker-Bermite site on its east side and the Metrolink Station parking on its west side is underway, James Chow, senior planner for the City of Santa Clarita.
“In our opinion, the construction would not pose an issue,” Chow told The Signal Monday. “The pedestrian bridge is an off-site improvement project for Villa Metro.”
“The bridge would facilitate foot traffic north and south to the Metrolink Station,” he said.
That’s not how environmentalists with the local group – Whittaker Bermite Citizens’ Advisory Group, or CAG – see the project.
“It’s on the property of Whittaker-Bermite,” CAG spokesman Rick Drew told The Signal Monday. “It’s part of the Bermite site.”
Drew points to a resolution adopted by the city of Santa Clarita more than two decades ago that prohibits construction of any kind on the site until all 996 acres of contaminated land are cleaned up.
“According to resolution, no developer would touch any part of the property until the property was entirely cleaned up,” Drew said.
Chow said bridge construction is not a “project of the Whittaker-Bermite site.”
The Santa Clarita City Council approved plans for Villa Metro back in 2006 and recently approved actual grading of the property for the bridge, he said.
Asked what CAG’s environmental concerns were for the construction, Drew said it was “the principle of the thing.”
“Our fear is that they’re going to do something else,” Drew said, referring to developers eyeing the Whittaker-Bermite site.
“There’s a fear of them going in and developing the land before it’s cleaned up,” he said.
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.
Cleanup experts anticipate the site will be completely cleaned of toxic material – volatile organic compounds trapped in the soil, health hazardous perchlorate in the groundwater – to the satisfaction of state watchdogs at the California Department of Toxic Substances Control by 2020.
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt