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Published: Wednesday, 4/30/2008

Luckey Beryllium plant still nags health officials


The remnants of a former beryllium plant in Luckey continue to concern the Wood County Health Department even though the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the site poses no immediate threat to public health.

Two years ago, the Corps determined sections of the property's soil and groundwater were contaminated with beryllium, lead, and uranium.

The Corps announced last week it would continue sampling groundwater wells at the site until the contaminants are cleaned up and there are no traces remaining in the water.

"We do not believe it's going to pose any health risk to the people who live [in Luckey]," said Tim Byrnes , the Corps' project manager for the Luckey site.

"We continue to monitor our wells to make sure it does not pose a hazard to potential users."

Mr. Byrnes said the Corps has no time line to clean up the site and that cleanup is subject to federal funding.

But Brad Espen, director of environmental health for the Wood County Health Department, said the Corps assured him it would begin cleaning up the site by 2010.

"If they follow through like they're supposed to, I don't feel like it's a bad plan, but I want to make sure they do what they say they're going to do," he said.

The Corps said its studies show the contamination is isolated to the former Brush Wellman property and there is no risk of contaminating neighboring wells or other local water supplies.

From 1949 to 1958, the estimated 40-acre site at 21200 Luckey Rd. operated as a production facility for the Brush Beryllium Co., which later became Brush Wellman Engineered Materials, moving to Elmore in 1958.

Beryllium is a metal with many industrial uses, one of which is the construction of nuclear weapons, and the company produced beryllium for the former Atomic Energy Commission.

The federal government determined some years later that the ground where the factory used to be has been contaminated by the materials used and produced there.

The site now has numerous vacant, deteriorating buildings, some which have been demolished.

The property was bought in 2006 by Hayes Lemmerz International Inc., which manufactures automobile wheels. But Mr. Espen said the property's ownership has changed hands numerous times in two years.

"We've diligently been trying to track its ownership," he said. "That site is dangerous. We want the property secured and cleaned up."

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