published January 10, 2001
Residents urge wider
testing for beryllium dust near plant
Residents concerned about the health hazards caused by beryllium
produced at the Brush Wellman plant near here urged a local
environmental group last night to conduct more testing of residents
and the families of workers.
Bernadette Eriksen said she
lived nine years next to the plant near Elmore. She said testing
would allow her to find out whether beryllium, a material linked to
a fatal lung disease, is inside her house.
"I am willing to
pay for [testing] out of my own pocket, she said.
residents, workers, and activists attended a meeting in the public
library here to discuss efforts to expand the sampling in the
The forum was sponsored by Ohio Citizen Action,
the state’s largest environmental activist organization. The group
has called for an independent study of workers’ and residents’ homes
and vehicles to determine how much beryllium has gotten off the
Brush Wellman facility and into the community.
spoke last night asked for testing of the Portage River, farmland,
and residential wells. Ohio Citizen Action was told of the need to
have any testing done independent from the state Environmental
"Clean up the [darn] place. I don’t think
that is too much to ask. All the thinking in the world is not going
to cure it," Brian Sharples, who lives near the plant,
The forum followed the release last month of testing
results compiled by Ohio Citizen Action that found beryllium dust in
the homes and vehicles of six current and former Brush Wellman
employees. It reported finding beryllium on the car of a resident
who lives across the street from the plant.
Beryllium is a
lightweight metal. Its dust can cause an incurable, often-fatal lung
disease. Brush Wellman processes beryllium, which is used in the
defense, automotive, and electronic industries.
Action wants the company and the government to pay for the testing
of more residents and workers’ families to see whether they have
been affected by the beryllium. The group has been pushing for
reforms in the way companies handle beryllium.
people have the right to know if they have been exposed," Sarah
Ogdahl, director of Ohio Citizen Action’s Toledo office,
She said more scientific sampling conducted by an
independent organization is needed throughout the
"We need to take hundreds of samples," Ms. Ogdahl
said. "We need to have Brush Wellman and the U.S. government pay for
that. We need the money, and we believe it should come from the
government and the company."
Several Brush Wellman workers
raised questions about the sampling methods used by Mrs. Ogdahl’s
Gary Darnell, who works at the plant, compared the
health hazards related to beryllium to deaths caused by motor
"Are you going to boycott everything that
kills people," he said. "Brush does what it can to protect the
Mr. Darnell said he believes Ohio Citizen Action is
making unfair demands on Brush Wellman and not working with the
company to address the health problems.
"We are demanding the
company make the plant safer," Ms. Ogdahl said. "We think people
have the right to know if they have been exposed."
Wellman officials were not invited to the meeting. But a company
representative distributed a "facts about beryllium and Brush
Wellman" sheet to people as they entered the meeting.
Rep. Chris Redfern (D., Port Clinton) and Everett Woodel, staff
member in the office of U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor (R., Old Fort)
attended the meeting.