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It's a deal Beryllium to stay out of Lorain
MORGAN LEWIS JR., Morning Journal Writer May 16, 2000
LORAIN -- City Council in Lorain last night approved the long-awaited agreement with Brush Wellman Inc. that will forbid that company from ever bringing the potentially harmful metal beryllium into the city.
Lorain City Councilwoman Kathy Tavenner, D-at-large, said she will make sure the agreement is signed by Brush Wellman officials. Tavenner has headed the campaign to keep beryllium out of the city for the last 14 months.

''The only thing left to do is to get them to sign it,'' Tavenner said. ''That's a very important final step.''

Councilwoman Anne Molnar, D-at-large, cast the only vote against the agreement, which she called, ''bogus.''

During World War II, the federal government ordered the increased production of beryllium which was used in the production of bombs and missiles, Molnar said.

''God forbid, if there is ever an out-and-out war again we'll have no control over the production of beryllium,'' Molnar said. ''The government will be able to bring it in if they want to.''

In the pact, the city agrees to halt meetings to discuss an outright ban of beryllium within city limits. Discussion of a ban could be resumed if city officials believe there is a threat that the company plans to break the agreement or if a different company tries to produce beryllium in Lorain.

The pact is only between Lorain and Brush Wellman, but will also apply if the company merges with another firm or is purchased.

Brush Wellman officials did not attend last night's City Council meeting and were unavailable for comment last night.

Brush Wellman has a plant on Baumhart Road, where brush engineered bronze, a non-beryllium product, is produced. However, Brush Wellman is the world's largest producer of beryllium.

The agreement is a shift from the previous stance Brush Wellman officials have taken since a ban was first discussed 14 months ago. Company officials maintained that they do not expect the dangerous metal to be used in Lorain, but they would not rule out that beryllium will never be used in the future.

Exposure to the beryllium metal dust is believed to cause a deadly lung disease, called chronic beryllium disease. Brush Wellman has a beryllium plant in Elmore, near Toledo, where there have been several reported cases of chronic beryllium disease.

Several Lorain area residents said at previous city meetings that members of their families became sick after working at a Lorain beryllium plant on First Street in the late 1930s and 1940s. The Lorain plant, owned by Brush Wellman – then called Brush Beryllium – burned down in 1948.

Brush Wellman's current 50,000-square-foot, $12 million Lorain plant opened in November 1997.

Beryllium has been produced for the nation's military since the 1940s and is used in missiles, bombs and jet fighters. Today it is also used in high-tech items such as computers, cellular telephones and ignition control systems, according to the company.

In July 1996, Lorain City Council approved a 10-year, 60 percent abatement of real estate and personal property taxes for the new Lorain Brush Wellman plant.

mlewis@morningjournal.com

©The Morning Journal 2000
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