City files motion demanding Bermite pay for legal fees 

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
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The city of Santa Clarita has filed a motion demanding that Bermite Recovery LLC and Remediation Financial Inc. pay more than $160,000 to compensate for legal fees the city incurred during a lawsuit between the parties.  

Bermite Recovery and Remediation Financial Inc. sued the city for over $750,000 while claiming the city interfered with their plan to develop approximately 1,000 acres of property on the former Whittaker-Bermite site — a tract of land that required a decades-long cleanup of contaminated soil.   

Remediation Financial Inc. eventually dropped out of the lawsuit, taking with it the claim over 1,000 acres, but Bermite Recovery stayed in the litigation based on a separately owned 24-acre parcel.  

According to the city’s Sept. 5 motion, hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars were spent combating the suit.   

Background and history 

The Bermite facility, located in the center of the city of Santa Clarita, served as the production, storage and testing site of dynamite, fireworks, military munitions and oil field explosives from 1934 to 1987, leaving behind chemicals and waste by-products in the soil and groundwater after operations fully ceased.   

In July of last year, the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency announced a court had awarded the agency nearly $66 million for cleanup of still-contaminated local groundwater — a project the city estimated would take 20 years.   

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

After 19 years of removing all that was left behind from production, a soil cleanup of the site was declared completed in 2019 by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, which supervised the cleanup performed by Amec Foster Wheeler.   

In February 2021, the state released its hold for the land. Santa Clarita LLC, owned by Remedial Financial Inc., had a deal with Prologis Inc., a real estate firm based in San Francisco, to pay all creditors, but filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 2021.   

Land restrictions, or covenants, were put in place by the state in accordance with the original development plan, known as the Porta Bella specific plan, which the Santa Clarita City Council approved in 1995.  

Land use covenants are a method the state Department of Toxic Substances Control 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.    

The city said it could not comment on any pending litigation. However, Carrie Lujan, spokeswoman for the city, and Community Development Director Jason Crawford stated in March that any new developments of the land would need to go through the city first. 

Closed session 

The Santa Clarita City Council is scheduled to hold a closed-session discussion on Tuesday regarding the motion seeking attorneys’ fees. A hearing on the motion is scheduled be held on Oct. 13 in federal court in downtown Los Angeles.   

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