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Beryllium ban finally official

Mike Sakal
The Chronicle-Telegram

    LORAIN -- A city councilwoman who fought for more than a year to ban a controversial substance within city limits said she now can rest easier.

A representative from Brush Wellman Inc. signed a voluntary agreement with the city on Wednesday, stating that the company's bronze engineering plant in the Lorain would not produce, store or manufacture beryllium.

Beryllium, a compound used as an alloy with other metals in the defense, electronics and automotive industry, has been known to cause chronic and fatal lung disease if its dust is inhaled during its manufacturing process.

State and federal laws regulate the production of beryllium. But the compound earned a reputation locally at the former Brush Beryllium plant on West First Street in Lorain during the 1930s and 40s. Several workers there and residents living near the plant at the time became ill and died, according to a study completed in 1944.

City Councilwoman Kathy Tavenner, D-at large, had fought for the past 15 months to get Council to enact a ban. She said Wednesday that she is glad the issue has been laid to rest.

"After hard work and fighting for this ... it's nice to see the agreement finalized and see something ultimately get accomplished," Tavenner said.

Ron Walczak, vice president of bulk products for Brush Wellman, signed the agreement for the company.

The signed agreement marks a major victory for Lorain residents, said Amy Ryder, director of the Ohio Citizen Action Committee's office in Cleveland, an activists group that worked with Tavenner on the effort to ban beryllium.

"The agreement definitely brings in a safety factor to Lorain," said Ryder, whose organization also is campaigning against beryllium production at Brush Wellman plants in Ohio.

"The ban safeguards the people from the hazards of beryllium. There's a lot of people out there who have been working with beryllium that said they didn't know that it could be a harmful substance."

Representatives from Brush Wellman did not return telephone messages seeking comment.

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