Paul J. Zerella | From Bridgeport to Bermite

Letters to the Editor
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The Bridgeport community was built on land that has been in human use at least since the 1700s. Records show that the area was most recently hog farms and barley fields. The area near where the elementary school now stands was used as a landfill for household waste from 1950 to approximately 1966. The California Environmental Protection Agency’s Department of Toxic Substances Control, DTSC, found no reason an elementary school should not be built on the site.

The entire preceding paragraph is a summary of information contained in a Signal article dated Feb. 22. 

Parents are concerned about what their children might be exposed to at Bridgeport Elementary School. Officials report they can find no cause for concern. The parents’ concern is real and the official response is based on the best information available. I have no idea how this will play out in the coming months. The parents’ concern, real as it is, may turn out to be misplaced. Officials’ response might have to change if new facts come to light. I have every reason to believe all the stakeholders, acting in good faith, will work toward resolving this issue, though I have no idea how it will turn out.

Now, for just a few minutes, put yourself in 2045, twenty-five years from today. Children still go to elementary schools, one of which is Whittaker-Bermite Elementary at the corner of Magic Mountain Parkway and Flare Road. This intersection doesn’t exist today. But it will in 2045 after Magic Mountain Parkway has been extended through the Bermite site to Golden Valley Road. Parents are still concerned for their children’s safety in 2045, just like they are today. 

Parents of children at Bermite Elementary get concerned. Their children have a rash or a cough or report a “funny” smell. DTSC reports that the site was cleaned up in 2019. But they remind people that, prior to 1967, the site had been used to manufacture a wide variety of products: gunpowder as early as 1917, fireworks from 1936 to 1942, red phosphorous, flares, detonators and other explosives from 1942 to 1967. From 1967 to 1987, fireworks, rocket motors, depleted uranium ammunition and a wide variety of explosives were manufactured and tested on the site. They also report that perchlorate, which had been used in several of the products manufactured on the site, had contaminated the groundwater and is still being cleaned up. 

I know that in 2045, we’ll have better sources of information. We’ll understand more about everything. Of that I am certain. I also believe two things strongly. We will know that building a road through the Bermite site to help manage traffic congestion around the valley was one thing but the decision to leave the rest of the site as open space and not build homes, schools and businesses was clearly the right choice. 

Just imagine trying to defend to future generations building an elementary school on a site with the history we know about Bermite. 

Paul J. Zerella

Saugus

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