published February 17, 2001
Ohio EPA looks for
beryllium in sampling
BY KELLY LECKER
ELMORE - The Ohio Environmental Protection
Agency is testing samples swiped from a house and other places
outside the Brush Wellman plant to see if there is any residue from
a chemical reaction Thursday that sent beryllium into the air in a
cloud of smoke.
Environmental and government officials were
trying yesterday to determine what caused the heat-based reaction
inside the 55-gallon drum containing beryllium chips outside a
building at Brush Wellman about 20 miles southeast of Toledo in
Ottawa County. The smoke was carried out of the plant and near some
area homes. Seven houses were evacuated until the air
Beryllium is a strong, lightweight metal used in the
defense, automotive, and electronic industries. It is used to make,
among other things, nuclear bombs. Beryllium dust can cause chronic
and sometimes fatal lung problems for those who inhale
The amount of beryllium in the air when it was tested
Thursday morning was 0.65 micrograms per cubic meter. That is within
the safety standard of 2 micrograms per cubic meter set for indoors
by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
outdoors, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has an emission
limit of an amount that over a 30-day period would average 0.01
micrograms per cubic meter.
Three Brush Wellman air monitors
stationed outside the plant read air levels well below 0.01
micrograms, according to the company. It said the highest reading on
the monitors was 0.00073 micrograms per cubic meter, with the other
two at 0.00027 and 0.00032 micrograms. The monitors were sent to the
OEPA yesterday morning, said Larry Chako, the Elmore plant manager
for environmental and utility services.
"What we’re seeing is
they’re in the low to average range, nothing out of the ordinary,"
Mr. Chako said.
The OEPA sent samples taken from a house, a
rock, and two birdhouses on nearby property to a lab for testing to
see if they contained any traces of beryllium. Those results were
not available yesterday.
"We also have different divisions
looking at Brush’s emergency response team to see if there was
anything that could have been done better," OEPA spokeswoman Heather
Mr. Chako said a thermal camera was set up to
detect heat in other drums in case this happens
Someone at the plant noticed smoke coming out of the
drum about 9 a.m. Thursday. An emergency plan was activated and sand
was dumped on the drum, which was moved to a building. Workers and
residents in the path of the plume were evacuated.
County Emergency Management director Jim Greer credited the lack of
apparent injuries to an emergency response plan set up between Brush
and the county. "Things went very well this time," he said. "They
have been working with the county on an emergency management
Some residents and Ohio Citizen Action, an
environmental group with 150,000 members, yesterday called again for
Brush to pay to test residents to see if they have beryllium
The group said the testing is especially important
now that Thursday’s release showed that beryllium can leave the
site. The agency late last year conducted tests that it said
revealed beryllium dust on the car of one resident and in the homes
of current and former workers.
Mr. Chako said the testing is
unnecessary because there is no evidence that residents’ health has
been affected by beryllium. He also said the blood test given to
workers is not meant to be a screening device for the general
population, so using it to test residents would be