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Company agrees to beryllium ban

Mike Sakal
The Chronicle-Telegram

    LORAIN -- Brush Wellman Inc. officials reached a tentative agreement with city officials Monday to voluntarily ban the production of beryllium in the city.

City Council ultimately would have to approve the final agreement and referred the matter to its Streets and Utilities Committee, which will meet at 6 p.m. next Monday.

The agreement comes several months after Councilwoman Kathy Tavenner, D-at large, proposed an ordinance forbidding the production of beryllium in the city.

Beryllium has been known to cause chronic and fatal lung disease known as berylliosis if its dust is inhaled during the manufacturing process.

The company currently does not make beryllium at its plant in the Lorain Industrial Park, but Tavenner said she had feared that the company might start.

She said Monday that she is optimistic about the company's willingness to sign an agreement.

"A written agreement with the company is what we've wanted from the beginning," Tavenner said. "It's a good faith agreement, and that's what we want."

Tavenner, however, said she plans to make an amendment to the proposed ordinance and discuss it at the committee meeting.

"If the company were to ever sell the plant in Lorain, I want it in the agreement that beryllium cannot be manufactured by whoever might take over the plant," she said.

The plant is located on the city's west side off Baumhart Road.

B.J. Fisher, a spokesman for Brush Wellman, said Monday that the company would not comment about the agreement until Council decides whether to approve it.

In February, the Ohio Citizen Action Committee joined Tavenner in her battle to ban the production of beryllium.

Amy Ryder, director of the committee's Cleveland office, was jubilant over the proposed agreement.

"The agreement is a great victory," Ryder said. "The consensus all along was that the public did not want to see beryllium produced here. I think putting on public pressure helped."

During the last two months, the group canvassed neighborhoods and turned in nearly 1,300 postcards to City Hall with signatures of residents who opposed the production of beryllium within city limits.

Councilwoman Lori Kokoski, D-8th Ward, whose ward includes the Brush Wellman plant, said the agreement would be a "win-win" situation for everyone.

Kokoski had made a motion in February to send the proposed ordinance banning beryllium back to committee for further review. Tavenner was absent at that Council meeting.

"They could've taken us to court, and we could've lost," Kokoski said. "The issue needed to be reviewed further. I don't think Brush Wellman would've been willing to sign the agreement without the controversy so the controversy was good."


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