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BERMITE DEADLINES MISSED STATE TOXICS AGENCY WARNS WHITTAKER.

Byline: Heather MacDonald Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA - Whittaker Corp. missed a series of deadlines for work on the defunct Bermite explosives factory, prompting a warning from the state agency overseeing the cleanup of the polluted 996-acre site.

The Simi Valley-based company failed to start investigating two sections of the site, which officials believe are heavily contaminated with dozens of poisonous chemicals and unexploded ordnance waste left from decades of explosives manufacturing, according to the state Department of Toxic Substances Control.

``We've put them on notice that if they don't complete this work, the next step would be to find them in noncompliance and take legal action,'' said Sara Amir, the chief of the Southern California Cleanup Operations branch of the DTSC.

In addition, the company has not submitted a number of reports and monthly groundwater level measurements, Amir said.

Eric Lardiere, general counsel for Whittaker, could not be reached Thursday for comment.

The agency also ordered Whittaker to develop, within 30 days, a plan to investigate a ``hot spot'' of perchlorate pollution on the northern portion of the property.

DTSC officials believe that the area contaminated the nearby Stadium Well, which is owned by the Santa Clarita Water Co. Several months ago, tests showed the well water contained 5.7 parts per billion of the toxin, which is above the allowable level for drinking water.

Studies have shown that perchlorate, a rocket and missile fuel byproduct, can damage the thyroid gland and is risky for pregnant women, whose fetuses can be affected.

Whittaker has asked for additional time to complete some reports and has begun exploratory drilling, said DTSC unit chief Rita Kmat.

``They are acting in good faith,'' Kmat said.

In November, the DTSC unilaterally ordered Whittaker to begin cleaning up the property where it and other companies built and tested weapons for the U.S. military for decades. The munitions factory was shut down in 1987.

The company met the first series of deadlines imposed by the DTSC's order, and Lardiere said the company intended to fulfill its obligations and work with the community.

Santa Clarita leaders never have been optimistic that Whittaker intended to clean up the site off Soledad Canyon Road willingly, and have repeatedly questioned the company's commitment to the cleanup and called Whittaker's track record spotty.

Santa Clarita will work to make sure that the company meets future deadlines set by the DTSC, and that Whittaker isn't granted gratuitous extensions by state officials, said Santa Clarita Planning Director Jeff Lambert.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 21, 2003
Words:416
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