Cleanup officials say Whittaker-Bermite to be cleared by year’s end

Signal file photo Empty dump trucks pull into a soil treatment area to pick up clean dirt as viewed on tour of the cleanup efforts of the Whittaker-Bermite site in Valencia in October 2016. Dan Watson/The Signal

The cleanup of close to 1,000 acres of contaminated soil at Whittaker-Bermite is still on track to wrap up by year’s end, with just a dozen isolated pockets needing particular attention, according to the cleanup efforts’ engineers.

“I am very happy to tell you that by the end of the year we will be done,” Hassan Amini, project manager with the cleanup firm GSI Environmental, told the stakeholders and about a dozen citizens.

The Whittaker-Bermite Multi-Jurisdictional Task Force Meeting gave the update at Santa Clarita City Hall this week regarding the 996 acres near the center of Santa Clarita.

One particular area in the center of the  Whittaker-Bermite map was described as the most contaminated spot on the site — Area 14, or as it’s called by workers, “Burn Valley.”

Over more than a half-century, “Burn Valley” became the area where the most harmful chemicals were dumped, officials said.

The original business on the Whittaker-Bermite site was called the Bermite Powder Co. and dates to the 1930s. At the time it was built, the location was relatively isolated.

In 1967, Whittaker Corp. bought the site and it was renamed Whittaker-Bermite. Although the property is now owned by another firm, Whittaker — through its insurer — is financially responsible for cleaning it up.

The manufacturing that took place for years on the property left pollutants, including volatile organic compounds, uranium and perchlorate, a salt shown to interfere with uptake of iodide by the thyroid gland. Perchlorate is also found in groundwater in the area.

Showing attendees an overhead map of the cleanup site, Amini pointed to about a dozen areas that dotted the map and explained that they were in various stages of cleanup completion.

Final cleanup efforts have focused attention on a half-dozen pockets of land where volatile organic compounds are detected, he said.

Some of the VOC areas identified as problematic in November are still proving to be stubborn challenges for cleanup crews.

“We’ve been very aggressive in the removal of VOCs,” Amini explained, noting crews have drilled to a depth of 70 feet underground to file the harmful chemicals.

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