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Compromise possible on beryllium in Lorain

Saturday, April 15, 2000

By KAREN HENDERSON

PLAIN DEALER REPORTER

LORAIN - A city councilwoman who wants to ban the manufacture of beryllium and beryllium compounds in the city said she was willing to accept a compromise.

Councilwoman Kathy Tavenner said yesterday that she would drop her push for a total ban if Brush Wellman Inc. would sign an agreement never to manufacture beryllium at its plant in the Lorain Industrial Park.

She asked the city’s Law Department to draft a letter extending the offer to the company.

Exposure to beryllium dust and fumes causes a fatal illness known as acute beryllium disease and lung cancer.

Brush Wellman has not manufactured beryllium in Lorain since its old plant burned in 1948. But in the 1940s, when beryllium was in great demand for the war effort, plant workers and residents near the old W. 1st St. plant became ill and died from inhaling the dust and fumes.

William J. Fischer, a Brush Wellman spokesman, said company officials would not comment on Tavenner’s offer until they review the letter from the Law Department.

Brush Wellman, with headquarters in Cleveland, is the largest manufacturer of beryllium in the country. Beryllium and beryllium compounds are used in a variety of products from nuclear weapons to cell phones, Apache helicopters, sensors for airbags and golf clubs.

Brush Wellman officials have said they do not plan to manufacture the product in Lorain. They have complained that an all-out ban would be bad policy and might scare off businesses wishing to move to Lorain. Though they have not said they would sue the city over a ban, they have said they would oppose it.

City lawyers say the ban would be the first of its kind in the country and probably would be tested in court. The city’s legislation must be able to withstand questions of constitutionality and how far a city’s police powers extend over the rights of a company to produce a product, they said.

A hearing on the proposed ban is set for May 8 before City Council.

E-mail: khenderson@plaind.com

Phone: 1-800-767-2821

©2000 THE PLAIN DEALER. Used with permission.


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