Meetings called to update public about last days of Whittaker-Bermite cleanup

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

As state officials count down the time remaining in the cleanup of close to 1,000 acres of contaminated land at Whittaker-Bermite, they plan to update the public about the cleanup at two meetings Wednesday.

A multi-jurisdictional meeting in which each stakeholder involved in the cleanup weighs in on the status of soil, air and water decontamination efforts is scheduled to take place at Santa Clarita City Hall at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Century Conference Room.

The status of the cleanup will also be presented to members of the Whittaker Bermite Citizens’ Advisory Group at the Santa Clarita United Methodist Church on Bouquet Canyon Road,  beginning at 7 p.m.

A central figure expected at both talks is Jose Diaz, senior project manager for the Department of Toxic Substances Control, who has been overseeing the cleanup for several years.

Diaz is expected to deliver the latest findings and determinations made by the DTSC.

Matt Stone, general manager of the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency, and Brian J. Folsom, the agency’s chief engineer, are also scheduled to deliver a status update on water treated for perchlorate contamination.

At the last such meeting in November, the cleanup’s lead engineer said his company could “wrap it up in a year or so,” capping three decades of cleaning  groundwater and 966 acres of contaminated soil at Whittaker-Bermite.

“We are very optimistic – because we are on schedule – that we can wrap it up within a year or so,” Hassan Amini, project manager with the cleanup firm Amec Foster Wheeler, told the stakeholders and about a dozen citizens in October.

Amini is scheduled to share the company’s latest information on the cleanup at the City Hall meeting Wednesday.

The most recent cleanup development was initiated in spring when engineers began treatment of the groundwater at Whittaker-Bermite for perchlorate.

In September, the Saugus Aquifer Treatment Plant on Whittaker-Bermite property next to the Metrolink Train Station on Soledad Canyon Road went into full effect cleaning about 150 gallons of groundwater per minute.

It was initially intended that the plant remove perchlorate from the groundwater and discharge the cleaned water back into the watershed.

In a temporary move last spring, however, officials began reusing the cleaned water in the ongoing effort to clean contaminated soil – all with the understanding that once that job is done, cleaned water would be discharged into the watershed.

Amini is expected to update stakeholders on the temporary measure and whether or not the cleaned water is being discharged into the watershed as initially planned.

For more than 40 years, perchlorate was used as a solid fuel component in the manufacture of munitions, fireworks, flares, and other explosives at the Whittaker-Bermite site located south of Soledad Canyon Parkway and east of San Fernando Road.

As a result of all those “operations,” a known perchlorate contaminant plume has been identified in the SCV and several wells have tested positive for perchlorate.

Once used as a medication to treat overactive thyroid glands, perchlorate can impair the function of normal and underactive thyroids. It has also been linked to problems with fetal development in pregnant woman.

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