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Monday, July 2, 2001

Testing of air, water near Brush Wellman justified

News Herald

Neighbors of the Brush Wellman beryllium copper rolling facility in Elmore have long suspected that they might be subject to berylliosis, a disease caused by breathing the hard, grayish metal.

Lauretta Peters, who lived on an egg farm near Brush Wellman for about 25 years before moving to Florida, joined about 50 other local residents at the Elmore Community Center on Wednesday night for a discussion about their concerns with exposure to beryllium dust and procedures for measuring it.

They told representatives of the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry they would prefer independent testing of air and water quality to reviews conducted by Brush Wellman and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

It has been established that some former workers at the Brush Wellman plant have been diagnosed with the most serious form of berylliosis, chronic beryllium disease. But no cases of anyone contracting the illness outside the sprawling facility have been documented, says Brush Wellman spokesman Patrick Carpenter, who adds that the company has a history of providing air samples inside and outside the facility.

Peters and others in the community aren't convinced. That's why they want an independent study conducted.

Wednesday's meeting was a result of the Ohio Citizen Action group contacting Sen. Mike DeWine, D-Ohio, after OCA conducted beryllium testing earlier this year. OCA says it found beryllium contamination in the cars and homes of Brush Wellman workers. No contamination was found in the cars and homes of people who do not work at the plant, OCA says.

"It tells us the workers are bringing it home with them," says OCA spokeswoman Amy Ryder.

DeWine was convinced to contact the federal Centers for Disease Control. The CDC asked ATSDR to make the visit that occurred Wednesday night. After conducting its assessment, ATSDR could recommend independent testing.

Meanwhile, the OEPA will monitor air quality in the area and submit samples for independent testing.

While we aren't supporters of duplicative efforts and unnecessary expenditures of taxpayers' money, we think in this case that the costs involved in multiple tests are justified. The stakes are simply too high to do less.

Encouraging, too, is the cooperation promised Thursday morning by Brush Wellman's Carpenter: "We welcome the interest of the CDC, we welcome their visit, we welcome their study and we look forward to working with them."

We hope Wednesday's meeting results in more cooperation among these groups and testing that provides solid information for Elmore residents and a fair shake for Brush Wellman.

If that occurs, everyone wins.