Brush Wellman to sign pledge it won’t make beryllium in Lorain

Tuesday, May 02, 2000

By KAREN HENDERSON

PLAIN DEALER REPORTER

LORAIN - Brush Wellman Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of beryllium, has offered to sign an agreement never to manufacture the product in the city.

The agreement was sent to city officials about a week before City Council planned to hold a public hearing on a proposed beryllium ban. The ban would have been the first of its kind in the country, city officials said.

Beryllium is used in a variety of products from nuclear weapons to cellular phones and sensors for airbags. Exposure to beryllium fumes, dust or powder causes a fatal illness called chronic beryllium disease and lung cancer.

Councilwoman Kathy Tavenner, who proposed the ban, said she was pleased that the company had agreed to put its pledge in writing.

The agreement was negotiated between Brush Wellman and city lawyers. Law Director Mark Provenza said the agreement and an ordinance accepting it had been sent to City Council for approval.

"We think it accomplishes what was being sought by Councilwoman Tavenner," Provenza said.

He said the agreement did not preclude the city from later seeking a ban if another company decides to manufacture beryllium in the city. But it does agree to suspend public hearings on the ban.

The agreement states that Brush Wellman "in consideration for Lorain City Council agreeing to terminate further hearings regarding legislation banning the production, manufacture or storage of beryllium or beryllium compounds" agrees not to produce, store or manufacture beryllium or beryllium compounds in the city.

Tavenner proposed the beryllium ban because she was afraid that Brush Wellman, based in Cleveland, might decide to manufacture the product at its plant in the Lorain Industrial Park.

Company officials have been quick to point out that the company has not manufactured beryllium in Lorain since its old plant burned in 1948, and they have no plans to manufacture beryllium here.

When beryllium was manufactured in Lorain in the 1940s, workers and residents living near the W. 1st St. plant became ill and died.

Ohio Citizen Action, an environmental activist group, has been supporting Tavenner’s efforts to get a ban passed.

E-mail: khenderson@plaind.com

Phone: 1-800-767-2821

©2000 THE PLAIN DEALER. Used with permission.


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