Leon Worden

How's your thyroid? Chemical is in river

By Leon Worden
Wednesday, November 4, 1998

n a Nov. 3 memo to the City Council, City Manager George Caravalho writes:

"The Porta Bella site contains hazardous materials and waste as a result of previous activities from the manufacturing of munitions, explosives and flares. As a condition of approval for the project, the entire site must receive clearance from the California Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Toxic Substances Control prior to the issuance of grading permits for the Porta Bella project. The portion of the Magic Mountain-Via Princessa extension that travels through the Porta Bella site must also comply with this condition."

Here is the majority of the new DTSC report, which includes a map showing contaminated drinking water wells WEST of San Fernando Road and Magic Mountain Parkway, from the old Hi-Chic curve to the Valencia Boulevard intersection. The water wells are not currently in use.

INTRO: "This fact sheet provides an update on the environmental investigation under way at the Whittaker Corp. Bermite site, the former military ordnance manufacturing facility located adjacent to the Metrolink station on Soledad Canyon Road in Santa Clarita."

"Whittaker conducted a remedial investigation and submitted a draft report to (DTSC) that confirmed the release of hazardous substances on the 996-acre site. DTSC ... determined that additional work was needed to determine the extent of the contamination."

"The chemicals perchlorate (a solid rocket fuel by-product which adversely affects the thyroid gland) and N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA, a liquid rocket fuel component that causes liver disease and is a suspected cancer-causing agent) were detected in ground water samples from recently installed monitoring wells in the northern portion of the site."

"Perchlorate in low levels was also found in four inactive drinking water wells and in storm water runoff leaving the site. The majority of this storm water flows through culverts or confined channels into the Santa Clara River."

"NDMA has been detected in on-site monitoring wells and ... has not been detected in any off-site wells (or) in soil on the site."

INVESTIGATION: "Potential chemicals of concern include red phosphorus (used in rat poisons and pyrotechnics, explodes on contact with organic materials), polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (insoluble chemicals caused by incomplete combustion, suspected to cause cancer), dioxins-furans (highly toxic and cancer-causing organic compounds), perchlorate, NDMA, solvents (toxic and usually flammable), heavy metals (toxic and insoluble), and depleted uranium (toxic and radioactive). These are all chemical byproducts associated with the manufacturing and testing of military ordnance."

"On-site soil sampling at one location detected perchlorate to a depth of 110 feet. This was the vertical limit of equipment being used at the time."

OPERABLE UNITS: "This approach would divide the site into more manageable "Operable Units" in order to give the highest priority to the most critical areas of the site, allowing these areas to be investigated and cleaned up earlier than other areas.

"(This is) a common strategy used regularly by DTSC and U.S. EPA to create more manageable projects and to expedite cleanup. The proposal is under consideration by DTSC but ... is not yet finalized and has not been approved. ... Although the site may be remediated in phases, all land use development decisions regarding the entire 996-acre site reside with the city of Santa Clarita."

CONTAMINANTS: "Perchlorate and NDMA have been discovered in the ground water beneath the northern portion of the site. ... DTSC promptly notified local authorities.

"The state Department of Health Services and other state and federal agencies are ... conducting detailed studies and reviewing new information on perchlorate to determine a safe level in drinking water. Eighteen parts of perchlorate per billion parts of water has been set as an interim, temporary safe level."

STORM WATER RUNOFF: "DTSC has verified that storm water runoff from the site contains perchlorate. However, (other toxic and hazardous chemicals) were not detected in storm water runoff.

"Storm water from the areas tested flows through culverts or confined concrete channels past the Circle J and Placerita Canyon residential areas on the western side and an industrial area near the National Testing Service on the eastern side. The water from the site flows into Placerita Creek, the Santa Clara River and ultimately into the ocean.

"Off-site soil and sediment sampling is planned to determine if there are any significant environmental effects from the storm (water runoff)."

VIOLATIONS: "A settlement was reached in April 1998 between (DTSC) and the Whittaker Corp. for alleged violations of the Hazardous Waste Control Law and the Health and Safety Code. Without admitting liability, Whittaker Corp. has agreed to pay $400,000 in civil penalties and costs."

MEETING: "A community meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. in the (Santa Clarita) City Council chambers (and) will be videotaped for future broadcast on the local cable station."

    Leon Worden is The Signal's special sections editor.

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