9:14:27 AM Saturday, February 17, 2001

Locals want renewed testing for beryllium
Saturday, February 17, 2001




Local residents and an activist group have renewed their demand Brush Wellman pay for extensive testing which would determine whether beryllium contamination has occurred to the air, land and water near the plant.

This comes a day after a vapor cloud containing traces of beryllium developed outside the plant and floated onto residential

The vapor cloud developed after a chemical reaction occurred in a 55-gallon drum containing waste metal chips, some of which were beryllium. The drum was stored outside on the western portion of Brush Wellman property, at the interesection of Ohio 590 and South Portage River Road.

"The accident proves that beryllium is leaving the plant and entering the community," said Ohio Citizen Action Director Sarah Ogdahl. "The overwhelming response from Friday's meeting of local residents is that the neighbors want their blood, their homes and their water tested for

Over the last two years, OCA has collected thousands of signatures urging Brush Wellman and beryllium producing companies to reduce their pollution, Ogdahl said. Although OCA has presented their requests for contamination testing to local, state and federal government officials, Ogdahl said the testing has not occurred.

There is no known cure for diseases associated with long-term exposure to beryllium dust, mostly lung and respiratory problems that can be fatal, and residents said want to know if the contamination exists.

Bryan Sharples, who lives on the Portage River about three miles west of the plant, said he thinks the hundreds of fish he has seen floating dead in the river and a green slime plant officials say is algae are direct results of beryllium contamination.

"I knew the dangers of beryllium dust when I bought the house eight years ago, but I like living on the river," Sharples said. "If I would have known that the possible contamination was this bad, I would have never have moved here."

Sharples and other residents said they are also concerned that Brush does not have a siren warning system to notify local residents when an incident like the vapor cloud occurs.

Meanwhile, Brush Wellman's Environmental and Communications Manager Larry Chako said the company still does not know what caused the chemical reaction, but precautionary measures, including the installation of a heat-sensing infrared camera, have been taken to prevent a similar incident from occurring.