We're glad to see Brush Wellman officials
taking a proactive approach toward two recent incidents, but we'd
like to see them go further and agree to testing demanded last week
by neighbors of the Elmore area plant.
Brush Wellman officials said they would meet with state and
county officials to discuss the company's performance during an
accident at the plant Feb. 15, as well as during a minor weekend
Feb. 15, a vapor containing traces of beryllium escaped from a
55-gallon drum outside the plant. No one was injured, but roads were
blocked off and seven homes evacuated as a precaution.
Then Saturday, a fire started in a melting furnace when molten
aluminum beryllium alloy was being poured into a casting. The plant
emergency response team doused the fire, but the building was
evacuated until the air within the area could be tested for possible
Brush Wellman is only required to contact the EPA if the amount
of a release is greater than that listed by the law for certain
chemicals, and if it gets into the outside environment. While Brush
did not notify the EPA of the fire Saturday, officials did contact
the Ottawa County Sheriff's office which put the Harris-Elmore Fire
Department on standby and contacted the EPA.
The notification policy and procedures were among the topics that
company officials planned to discuss during meetings with state and
That attempt to reach out to the various agencies is a good sign
of concern on the part of Brush officials.
But they have a lot of image polishing to do and a lot of fears
to calm and questions to answer.
For those reasons, the company should respond positively to
demands that it share the cost of a series of beryllium exposure
tests in the wake of the chemical releases.
The demands and other concerns were aired last week at a press
conference. Members of Ohio Citizen Action of Toledo, a public
health and environment watchdog group, helped organize the event.
While Brush Wellman officials say the release, caused by an
exothermic reaction among copper machining chips that contained
traces of beryllium, did not put nearby residents at risk, seven
homes were evacuated during the incident and roads leading to the
plant were closed for about five hours.
And fears of the horrors of berylliosis justifiably make the
neighbors concerned and cautious.
They are understandably not as confident as Brush officials are
about the lack of danger.
The testing could ease those concerns and demonstrate to the
neighbors and the public as a whole that Brush Wellman is really
interested in being a good citizens and really concerned about the
well-being of its workers and nearby residents.