SCV Water wins $65.9M due to Whittaker-Bermite water contamination

The Saugus Aquifer Treatment Plant removes perchlorate from groundwater at Whittaker Bermite in this 2017 Signal file photo. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency officials announced Tuesday a court has awarded the agency $65.9 million for cleanup of local groundwater contamination from the Whittaker-Bermite site.  

According to officials, the most recent news is the latest in a series of legal actions and settlements as a result of the Whittaker-Bermite site being used as a former munition testing and manufacturing site, resulting in contamination issues, which include perchlorate.  

Since 2007, when the last multi-million-dollar settlement was agreed to, more wells have become impacted by perchlorate and groundwater contaminants, and as a result the impacted wells needed to be removed from service until they could be treated.  

“Whittaker was unwilling to fund the installation of additional treatment systems and a second complaint was filed in 2018,” reads a statement from SCV Water distributed on Tuesday. “The impacted wells will stay offline until such time treatment systems are installed and the Division of Drinking Water issues permits that allow the treated water to be used for drinking water.”    

On June 28, the U.S. District Court, Central District of California, awarded SCV Water a final judgment of $65.9 million for the cleanup of the contamination, and coupled with an earlier settlement of $2.9 million, the amount of total recovery has been $68.8 million.  

“This judgment comes as a result of the proactive steps we’ve taken to protect our ratepayers by getting the Whittaker Corp. to pay for the remediation of the contamination they’ve caused,” said SCV Water board President Gary Martin. 

The money SCV Water receives from this judgment is scheduled to be used to construct and operate new treatment facilities to remove perchlorate and volatile organic compounds (VOC) from several impacted wells and restore lost groundwater production, officials said. A portion of the funds will also cover past expenditures that resulted from Whittaker’s contamination. 

“Water quality is a top priority, and we strive to ensure that the water we serve our customers meets all standards set by federal and state regulating agencies,” said SCV Water General Manager Matt Stone. “With the monies we receive, we will be working to clean and restore several wells that have been offline due to groundwater contamination.”   

The city of Santa Clarita’s website states that based upon the present schedule, it is forecasted that the cleanup of the groundwater could take approximately 20 more years. 

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