2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 21 Jan 2003 19:07:05 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Explosives cleanup moving forward
Explosives cleanup moving forward
City vows to keep pressing
By Heather MacDonald
Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA -- After years of little progress, there is finally real
momentum behind the cleanup of the polluted former Bermite explosives
factory, according to city and state officials.

However, the Santa Clarita City Council has vowed to keep the pressure
on both Whittaker Corp., the company responsible for cleaning up dozens
of poisonous chemicals and unexploded ordnance waste left from decades
of explosives manufacturing, and on the state Department of Toxic
Substances Control, which is overseeing the project.

"We're not all the way there, not by a long shot, but we're making
progress," said Planning Director Jeff Lambert. "We're going to play
hardball. We refuse to let them off the hook."

Next week, the City Council is expected to pass a resolution declaring
that it has the legal authority to subpoena insurance policies held by
Whittaker, which made such things as bullets and Sidewinder missiles for
the U.S. military before closing the explosives factory more than two
decades ago.

"We cannot wait to address this issue," Councilman Bob Kellar said.

Whittaker would be expected to challenge the subpoena, perhaps in court.

Officials are hopeful that the policies, if enforced, could pay to clean
up at least a portion of the polluted water and soil on the 996-acre
site in the hills near Soledad Canyon Road and Bouquet Canyon Road.
"This is part of the city's Whittaker-Bermite multipronged strategy,"
Lambert said.

Whittaker, which is owned by Simi Valley-based Meggitt-USA Inc., has
been ordered by the DTSC to begin cleaning the site and has met the
first series of procedural deadlines.

"Things are going really well," said Sara Amir, chief of the Southern
California Cleanup Operations branch of the DTSC.

While Whittaker's actions are encouraging, city officials expressed
reservations about the company's commitment to the cleanup.

"Whittaker's track record is not very good," said Councilman Bob Kellar.
"Otherwise they would have addressed these problems years ago."

Whittaker's general counsel Eric Lardiere declined to comment, but other
lawyers for the company have expressed a desire to work with DTSC

Lambert said the city would make sure that the company continues to meet
the deadlines set by the DTSC, and that Whittaker isn't granted
gratuitous extensions by state officials.

"That was one of the reasons the cleanup stalled," Lambert said.

Santa Clarita officials plan to continue pushing the state to start an
in-depth study to determine exactly what toxic chemicals are present on
the property and to clean up four known "hot spots" of contamination
that officials believe are polluting the area's groundwater with
perchlorate, a byproduct of rocket fuel linked to thyroid disease,
Lambert said.

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