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Bermite Sale Down To Two Final Bidders

Nearly 1,000 acres of land in the middle of the Santa Clarita Valley, which sat idle for years after toxins were found there, is finally set to begin cleanup, officials said, as involved parties met in Arizona to consider the property’s sale.

     A bidders’ conference in federal bankruptcy court in Phoenix on Friday drew creditors and other parties linked to the Whittaker-Bermite site, including the city of Santa Clarita, Whittaker Corp., the state Department of Toxic Substances Control and the Castaic Lake Water Agency, said Carl Newton, city attorney for Santa Clarita.

    The owner of the land, Remediation Financial Inc., or RFI, filed for bankruptcy in July 2004. The judge presiding over the case is due to decide in February which of two bidders will get the property.

    “They’re essentially analyzing the bids,” Newton said Friday. “They’re all determining from their own points of view which of the bids is better.”

     The bidders are Cherokee Investment Partners Inc., a North Carolina-based firm that specializes in cleaning up and developing polluted land, and SunCal Cos., an Irvine-based housing and mixed-use developer with a number of projects to its credit in the Santa Clarita Valley. The NorthLake development in Castaic, where a new high school is due to be built, is among SunCal’s local projects.

    Details of the bids were not made public, said Dwight Stenseth, general manager for Cherokee in the firm’s Denver office. Officials with SunCal could not be reached for comment Friday.

    “Our idea is to get in and hopefully resolve that situation immediately,” Stenseth said of the long-polluted land. Still, he said, “It’d take several years before all of that (cleanup) could be completed.”

    The Bermite site, located south of Soledad Canyon Road from behind Saugus Speedway to Golden Valley Road, was the scene of a munitions manufacturing plant and testing site, and later a fireworks manufacturing firm from 1934 to 1987.

    Shut down in 1987, it was found to be contaminated with perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel, and about 250 other hazardous chemicals.

    Volatile organic compounds contaminate the soil, and perchlorate is in both the soil and in the groundwater.

    Perchlorate has been determined to cause thyroid problems in humans, particularly in the very young and in pregnant women. Volatile organic compounds are found in paints, petroleum products such as turpentine, cleaning fluids and deodorizers. They are a major concern to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because they contribute to air pollution, especially unsafe ozone levels.

    For the whole story, visit The Signal's website.