State moves to issue land-use restrictions amid Whittaker-Bermite cleanup report

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 California Department of Toxic Substances Control is developing draft agreements that break down what can and cannot be done in areas that will be restricted in the nearly 1,000 acres on the former Whittaker-Bermite site following the completion of its cleanup, officials said Wednesday. 

The facility, located in the center of the city of Santa Clarita, had served as the production site of dynamite, fireworks and oil field explosives since the 1930s, leaving behind chemicals and waste by-products in the soil and groundwater even after operations fully ceased in 1987. 

After 19 years of removing all that was left behind from production, a cleanup of the site was declared completed. Cleanup firm Amec Foster Wheeler submitted a report — dubbed a remedial action completion report — to the state DTSC earlier this year, which officials recently approved, according to Jose Diaz, senior project manager for the state. 

“The next step in that process is that we (DTSC) are drafting the land use covenants for the areas that are going to be restricted,” said Diaz, during a virtual Whittaker Bermite Citizens’ Advisory Group meeting on Wednesday. 

Land use covenants are a method the state DTSC uses to protect the public from unsafe exposures to leftover contamination that has been deemed safe to leave at a property “as long as defined restrictions are adhered to,” according to its website. 

At large sites, restrictions may not be required for the entire site but rather to delineated areas of contamination. The department is working on specific restrictions but 20 acres of the 996-acre property, currently owned by Santa Clarita LLC, will be restricted, according to Diaz.

Depending on what developments could be proposed in the area, the state will have to take a closer look. 

“If future development of these areas includes sensitive uses such as residential, schools, hospitals or day care centers, DTSC will require additional evaluation and mitigation measures,” reads an October community update report from the state. 

Once land use covenants get recorded, the state DTSC will issue a “final letter” that details land use determination and what future actions must be taken when developers decide to work with the restricted areas, said Diaz. 

The state is also waiting on the completion report for groundwater treatment and is expected to have the final version by early next year, added Diaz. 

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