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Despite Contrary Reports, EJAG Still Has 'Grave Concerns' About Brush

Brush Ceramics Products is doing a diligent public-relations job to its neighbors on the southside of Tucson, as well as every agency that has an interest in its operation (even at the state Legislature). Painting a smiley face on a cruise missile does not change its potential harm ("The Brush Up," Currents, March 17 and "Linda Lopez: Evidence Shows Area Is Safe," Mailbag, March 31). If the history of Brush is any guide, the friendly new image they are trying to portray is hard to reconcile with their track record. We hope their touted improvements inside the plant actually will translate into

no more people becoming ill with chronic beryllium disease (CBD), a life-altering, incurable lung disease.

Tucson's Brush initiated a community advisory panel three years ago as a way of learning of the concerns of its neighbors. They hired a PR specialist from Oregon to conduct these periodic sessions. When Brush's budget became tight, they discontinued these meetings.

From this experience, they developed a PowerPoint program, which they carried to neighborhood associations and public agencies, attempting to allay fears and convince us that Brush is a good neighbor. They brought this to the Environmental Justice Action Group as well. Our members still have grave concerns about their operation.

After listening to Brush's story and continuing our research, we still believe that a processing plant using such a deadly material (refined beryllium oxide) is too great a risk for workers and our community, especially in a heavily populated area that has already suffered health effects from TCE contamination and other toxics. Of particular concern is that six public schools and the administration offices and central bus facilities for the Sunnyside School District are within a one-mile radius of this plant, many of them "downwind" of Brush's stack.

Since there is no scientific evidence that there is a "safe" level of beryllium exposure, we maintain that zero releases to the public must be required in the new air permit, now being drafted by the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality.

The parent company, Brush Wellman, has a long history of misleading its workers, deceiving safety regulators and cutting deals with the government. There have been a high number of lawsuits against the company (most dealing with workers who have acquired the dreaded chronic beryllium disease). In Brush's 1992 annual report, there were 76 pending cases; in 2004, there were still 12 cases. For a company whose total employment is 1,912 persons (in 16 locations), this is a very high level of litigation.

Brush has taken shortcuts to save money. A transcript of one Tucson worker's litigation states that the plaintiff was required to put used filter cartridges into a respirator instead of new cartridges. Brush claims there are nearly zero emissions of beryllium detected from its stack. Of course, Brush knows in advance when these tests will be conducted. Former employees tell of "house cleaning" prior to the stack tests. To give a true reading, tests must be un-announced.

In Tucson, Brush employs about 100 people. Of those, 65 actually work with beryllium oxide. Since it started operating in 1980, 34 employees have acquired chronic beryllium disease. Of these, five have died. This is NOT an acceptable price to keep a local business open.

And now, a housing development is being built across the street from Brush Ceramic Products. Nearly 600 homes will be occupied, downwind of Brush's stack. In our opinion, no beryllium-containing products are so important that they outweigh the health risks posed to workers and the community.

EJAG urges Brush to implement substitutes for its beryllium products, using nontoxic materials. We want to live, work and raise our children in a healthy community.

Pat Birnie, Facilitator
Environmental Justice Action Group


Lopez Lied About Brush and EJAG

There are liars; there are politicians, and there are politicians who lie.

Linda Lopez stated in her letter to the Weekly that officials from Brush Ceramic Products made commitments to the Environmental Justice Action Group and that "EJAG told Brush Ceramics that they were comfortable with the information provided." That is a flat-out lie.

The "meeting" between EJAG and Brush was comprised of two sessions where a couple of officials from Brush and their PR person, Sally Fernandez, showed a PowerPoint presentation. There were many misrepresentations, and in EJAG's opinion, downright lies in the information presented. Members of EJAG felt Brush's presentation was consistent with their record of violations, spills and lying to public officials. Furthermore, Brush made absolutely no commitments to EJAG at our meeting. Contrary to Lopez's assertion, we made no agreement to "check back on the company," as it was obvious to those of us at the meeting that Brush had no intention of listening to our concerns. Instead, they were hoping to mislead us with partial truths and distortions.

Linda Lopez lambasted reporter Chris Limberis, because he "never mentioned the presence of a large number of people from the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association at a study session of the Sunnyside School Board." The "large number of people" from the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association amounted to little more than a half-dozen folks, some of whom were not in favor of Brush.

It seems that one of the main reasons some people on the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association Board are in love with Brush is because Brush Ceramic Products sent some of their workers to help with the Sunnyside neighborhood cleanup. I guess it's OK if your kids die of a horrible lung disease caused by beryllium, as long as the neighborhood looks good.

Linda Lopez boasts that she has a high League of Conservation rating for her voting record at the state Legislature. It's a sad comment on the state of our state that such an industry lackey can get a high rating for merely voting against some of the anti-environmental legislation sponsored by the "wing nut" contingent of the Arizona State Legislature.

Rob Kulakofsky


Despite Abundance of Pope Coverage, the 'Weekly' Should Have Chimed In, Too

After reading your "Pope-Free Zone" (Editor's Note, April 7), I thought maybe I should drop you a line to set something straight.

First of all, the pope's death had an enormous impact on more than just Catholics. Maybe you should've considered that before you wrote your comment regarding the large number of Catholics that call Tucson home. I'm sure it's safe to say that Catholics were not the only ones affected. I'm not saying that's what you wrote in the article, but you certainly made it seem that way. I think the Pope's legacy should've had an impact on your life. Maybe then you wouldn't write mindless articles that state, "We're going to shine our spotlight on news and events that have more of a direct and immediate impact on our lives."

I think the pope's passing is a lot more important and has a lot more impact on our lives than some pills you can get from eBay. Go figure!

James R. Coleman


A Suggestion: Guard the California Border Instead

I'm sure that many of us feel more secure now that the feds have made a commitment to send more than 500 more Border Patrol officers to Southern Arizona to protect us ("April Fools!" The Range, April 7). I know I would feel more secure if they would station them along the Colorado River to keep the gun-toting white racist assholes in California where they belong.

Larry Blankenship


Citizens Need Guns, Because the Government Has Them

In response to Catherine O'Sullivan's article on guns (Guest Commentary, March 31): I agree that guns kill people, and that many of these people are innocent bystanders. I also agree that guns will often find their way into the hands of criminals and even children. These things we all know.

If we could simply press a button and make every gun and instrument of death disappear from our planet, most of us would do so, but this is not possible. I hate guns, but I also have a .357 magnum hidden away at my house. My justification for this is in the Bill of Rights. We have the right to defend ourselves from all enemies, whether they are foreign or domestic. I think that there is only one thing scarier than an armed society: a society where the government has guns, but the citizens do not.

Stephen Campbell


Would Someone (Very Carefully) Please Give This Man a Hug?

When I first read Catherine O'Sullivan's commentary, I thought for sure that it was a joke. Now that I realize that the editorial was not written in jest, I am left shaking my head ruefully--which is pretty much the only thing you can do when you come across an anti-gun lunatic.

Anti-rights "activists" have to lie to get others to have any compassion for their warped cause, and this editorial was no different. I have seen all the tricks before, and Ms. O'Sullivan used several of them--sensationalism, partial truths, misleading data labels and blatant lies among others. These tactics are required, because the truth simply does not support, or give any credence to, their insane desires to make everyone defenseless.

Without turning our country into a complete police state, the government schools will never be gun-free. All that is being done by not allowing good people to be armed in the government youth propaganda camps is ensuring that a mass murderer walking in the door will have a monopoly on the use of force. How twisted must your train of thought be to not allow those with a vested interest in stopping such attacks (the teachers, administrators and, yes, the students themselves) defend themselves? The police have proven repeatedly in such instances that they are not interested in being heroes by rushing into a building under attack and stopping it before more lives are lost.

So, despite all the yelling and profanity usage (something which, by the way, just makes the writer seem immature and unable to adequately use the English language), the anti-rights/freedom/responsibility crowd has never been able to truthfully justify their insane demands. Sure, they squawk incessantly and spew gibberish in all directions, but they are never able to reasonably defend their beliefs logically and rationally when called on them.

I will debate any anti-rights/freedom/responsibility advocate on the issue of guns, anywhere at any time. Why? Because logic is on my side. Every time the gun haters have had their arguments held up to any scrutiny whatsoever, they always turn out to be nothing but the usual emotional sensationalism and lies that are easily laid to waste with a minimal amount of rational thought.

Rich McKnight
First Vice-Chair, Pima County Libertarian Party

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