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

Cleanup at Whittaker-Bermite almost done; no plans, yet

With close to 1,000 acres in the heart of Santa Clarita cleaned to the satisfaction of state officials, stakeholders meeting at City Hall Wednesday turned their focus on what’s to come.

If the talk was about dinner plans, then the half-dozen people attending Wednesday’s multijurisdictional meeting saw the dinner table set — with no one showing up to eat and no meal plan.

“The city has not received an application or a plan for any proposed development,” said Tom Cole, director of community development for Santa Clarita.

There was a “mixed use” plan many years ago, called Porta Bella, which included homes and businesses.

Cole was asked about Porta Bella on at Wednesday’s public meeting, and about the prospect of developing the land.

“Porta Bella was a prior plan from way back when,” Cole said. “The city fully anticipates a new plan coming forward. The city fully anticipates a new environmental document.”  

Cole was asked if there was a plan to connect Via Princessa.

The now defunct Porta Bella plan called for, among other things, a civic center interface, a community park and links to Golden Valley Road and a Via Princessa alignment with Oro Fino Canyon.

The simple answer heard clearly Wednesday was: There are no plans.

Mopping up

Hassan Amini, project manager with the cleanup firm Amec Foster Wheeler, described the final cleanup phase at Whittaker-Bermite as devoted to mopping up, grading land that was churned up, “hydroseeding” and replacing 54,000 cubic yards of soil removed from the site.

Hydroseeding is a way of planting seeds by mixing them with mulch in a smoothie-like solution.

State officials with the Department of Toxic Substances Control have ensured the cleaned property is suitable for its intended use, according to DTSC handout distributed at Wednesday’s meeting.

About health risks, the handout reads: “There are no current health risks for people living, working, or going to school near the facility. Cleanup of the contaminants will prevent the potential for exposure in the future.”

As Amini explained Wednesday, the two key health concerns during cleanup were removing solvents called volatile organic compounds from the subsurface soil and removing perchlorate from both the soil and groundwater.

VOCs

Through a process called soil vapor extraction, VOCs were removed from the soil in 21 spots on the site, he said. When cleanup was done, air tests were carried out by the South Coast Air Quality Management District. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary, room-temperature conditions. Many believe they are carcinogenic.

And, as for perchlorate, for more than 40 years, it 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.

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 women.

Perchlorate

Removing perchlorate from the soil at Whittaker-Bermite, Amini explained involved a process called ex-situ bioremediation in which sections of soil were, one by one, treated with micro-organisms that broke down the chemical biologically. 

And, since Whittaker-Bermite was, for more than a half-century, a testing ground for explosives and munitions, Amini explained how cleanup crews found and disposed of munitions and explosives of concern. 

The specialty contractor identified landfill areas that could potentially contain MEC fragments, resulting in 54,000 cubic yards of landfill material to be screened for MEC debris and metal fragments.

That material was inspected and taken to a metal recycling facility. 

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.

The next and perhaps last multi-jurisdictional meeting on Whittaker-Bermite is scheduled for March 11, 2020.

[email protected] 661-287-5527 On Twitter @jamesarthurholt

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