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Explosive-Waste Burns to Continue : Bermite Wins Extension, Is Told to Seek Disposal Options

Times Staff Writer

Bermite, a Saugus defense contractor, Monday won approval to continue open burning of explosive waste at its manufacturing site for at least six weeks.

But, in extending Bermite’s open-burning variance until June 25, the South Coast Air Quality Management District hearing board also directed the firm to “fully investigate whether any facilities in the continental United States” are able to take its waste.

In particular, the board ruled, Bermite must report in writing whether the material could be shipped to the South Carolina waste-treatment firm that has tentatively agreed to take a large volume of explosive waste from Space Ordnance Systems, or SOS, another Santa Clarita Valley defense contractor.

No Large Stockpile

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Bermite, a division of Whittaker Corp., a Los Angeles-based conglomerate, does not have a large stockpile of waste as SOS does, and has been granted a series of variances over the last several months to burn up to 265 pounds of production waste a week at its 1,000-acre production site. The extension granted Monday will allow the firm to burn up to 600 pounds per week until June 25, when company officials again will have to appear before the board.

SOS, which has more than 50 tons of explosive waste stored in about 2,100 drums at its two plants near Canyon Country, on April 10 was denied a variance to burn the material at a desert site in the northeastern corner of Los Angeles County. Two weeks later, the company announced the layoff of more than 150 employees, saying it was shutting down some operations rather than generate more explosive waste it could not dispose of.

SOS, which is scheduled to bring a second request for an open-burning variance before the hearing board on May 28, also has appealed unsuccessfully to the military to take the waste.

SOS Finds Disposal Firm

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Both SOS and Bermite had told the hearing board that they knew of no commercial disposal companies capable of taking the waste.

But, on Friday, SOS announced it found such a firm. The company said it has contracted with Resource Technology Services, based in Pennsylvania, to haul the waste to Groce Laboratories, a South Carolina company that will chemically treat the waste to render it non-explosive.

The agreement, which an SOS official said Monday would cost the company at least $900,000, will not be final until Groce confirms by chemical tests that it can neutralize the material.

Bermite and SOS both make a variety of explosive devices for the military, including decoy flares used by fighter planes.


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