SANTA CLARITA – Construction of a pump-and-treat system for contaminated groundwater near the Whittaker-Bermite site has been delayed, and it will not be running until next year, officials said. But at least the money to fund the system has been secured following last week’s announcement of a settlement with the current and former owners of the former munitions plant. The agreement could bring nearly $100million to local water agencies. The pump-and-treat system was supposed to be running by the end of this year, taking water from two wells near the 996-acre property and treating it at a plant near Lowe’s Home Improvement on Bouquet Canyon Road. But the plan has met with obstacles, especially negotiating a right-of-way for the pipeline between the two wells and the treatment plant, said Dan Masnada, general manager of the Castaic Lake Water Agency. Having the new pump-and-treat system up and running was part of the water agency’s long-term plan to meet water needs for the ever-increasing homes in the Santa Clarita Valley. “There are folks out there who say, `Hey, this is a lost supply; you shouldn’t count it.’ But that’s ludicrous,” Masnada said. The only question has been who would pay for the treatment, and that was resolved with the settlement. “Actually, the treatment mechanism is pretty simple,” Masnada said. About half the water supplied to homes and businesses throughout the Santa Clarita Valley comes from underground. Two aquifers, or underground water supplies, are found near the Santa Clara River: the relatively shallow alluvial aquifer, which is tapped by more than 30 wells, and the Saugus aquifer, which supplies water to about a dozen. But the river flows close to the Whittaker-Bermite site, a former munitions plant. Perchlorate, a rocket fuel component linked to thyroid problems, had migrated from the site into the groundwater. Four wells in the Saugus aquifer had to be shut down in 1997 because of pollution from the Whittaker-Bermite site. The pump-and-treat system is supposed to treat water from two of the wells that were shut down, Saugus wells 1 and 2. Those are at Magic Mountain Parkway near a fork of the Santa Clara River and at San Fernando Road and Magic Mountain Parkway. The Daily News reported last week the settlement ends a lawsuit with the current and former owners of Whittaker-Bermite and adds to a $10million agreement secured in 2003. It does not specify a total dollar figure, but it does set a 30-year payment schedule. The Castaic Lake Water Agency and other water agencies will receive an immediate payment of $22.5million, plus $10million for a “rapid-response” fund in case any additional wells become polluted by contaminants flowing down from Whittaker-Bermite. But the biggest chunk of the settlement will be $55million for cleanup of groundwater, especially the pump-and-treat system for Saugus wells 1 and 2. The amount could change, depending on inflation and technological advances. Optimistic plans Meanwhile, soil cleanup continues on the property itself. The owners and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control are working on a plan for cleaning up the groundwater that remains on the site. They hope to have a report by the end of the month on methods that could be used to treat the deep groundwater on the site, said Jose Diaz, project manager for DTSC. After that, the plan would still need to be reviewed by the public, and that is still months away. A decontamination method likely to be recommended for the site is pump-and-treat, just like the Castaic Lake Water Agency is doing off site, Diaz said. And the public will not be paying for it, he added. The development company SunCal and cleanup experts Cherokee Investment Partners are working to decontaminate the property that sits more or less in the middle of Santa Clarita just south of Saugus Speedway. City officials are excited about the prospects. A 3,000-home development was proposed there years ago, but newer proposals are completely different, city planning manager Lisa Hardy said. One idea is to take advantage of the nearby Metrolink station and build a transit-oriented village, she said. “We really see this property being a jewel of the valley,” she said. “So now we can turn our attention to taking this project to the next chapter.” [email protected]ws.com (661) 257-5253 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!