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Lorain beryllium agreement finalized

Mike Sakal
The Chronicle-Telegram

    LORAIN -- After a 15-month battle, the city quietly laid a ghost to rest that one Councilwoman and several residents feared might reappear in the future.

City Council on Monday approved by an 11-1 margin an agreement with Brush Wellman Inc. that would restrict the company's Lorain bronze engineering plant from producing beryllium.

Brush Wellman is the world's No. 1 producer of beryllium, a metal substance used with other metals in the defense, automotive and electronics industry. Beryllium dust inhaled during the production process is known to cause a chronic and fatal lung disease.

The agreement will restrict the production and storage of beryllium at the plant in Lorain. Company officials agreed two weeks ago to sign the agreement on the condition that stop conducting public hearings regarding beryllium.

During the 1930s and 1940s, a Brush Beryllium plant was located at West First Street on the Lake Erie shore. Several plant workers as well as residents living near the facility got sick and died, according to a medical study conducted in 1944. The plant was destroyed by fire after a boiler exploded in 1948.

Councilwoman Kathy Tavenner, D-at large, had fought for a beryllium ban for more than a year because she feared the company might start producing the substance at its Lorain Industrial Park facility, which opened in 1996.

The Ohio Citizen Action Committee joined Tavenner's cause in February. Members from the environmental activist group collected about 1,300 signatures from residents who said they were opposed to beryllium production in the city.

Tavenner said she was pleased an agreement had been reached.

"It's great. Being on Council, I'm always looking for issues to get the city moving and things that are at fault that we can correct," she said. "I'll have to see the signatures on the agreement before I'm totally happy."

Tavenner said she expects city officials and company representatives to sign the agreement in about a week.

Councilwoman Anne Molnar, D-at large, cast the only vote against the voluntary ban.

"It's a bogus agreement," Molnar said. "Kathy Tavenner didn't ban anything. If there's ever an all-out war, the government will dictate who produces beryllium and where. ... The production of beryllium already is regulated by the state and federal government."

In other business, Council approved an agreement with the Ohio Department of Development to accept a $1 million grant for the riverfront urban renewal project. The money will be used for road improvements along Arizona and California avenues during the next two years.


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