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The Past Resurfaces


TOXIC SCARE: More than 2,000 residents are suing Lockheed Martin, Loral American Beryllium and Wire-Pro.
From 1961 through 1996, Loral American Beryllium Co. manufactured ultraprecise machine parts at its Tallevast Road plant in Manatee County. The company was also discharging toxic chemical waste. Lockheed Martin bought out Loral and shut the plant in October 1996 but did not discover a leaking sump pump on the site until 2000, when it notified Manatee County Environmental Management of possible groundwater contamination from several hazardous chemicals, including tetrachloroethene, trichloroethene and beryllium.

Today, more than 2,000 Tallevast residents living close to the factory who did not learn of the contamination until several years later are suing Lockheed Martin, Loral and the current owner of the facility, Wire-Pro.

Lockheed spokeswoman Gail Rymer says the residents are not at risk. "Basically we want to reiterate that the community is not currently at risk of being exposed to any contaminants, and relocation is unnecessary," Rymer says.

Lockheed, which has been cleaning up the site under a consent order by the state issued in 2004, says the company will continue to "aggressively pursue" its cleanup and try to work with the community to reach a solution in spite of the litigation.

"These residents are frightened," says Gary Kendall, an attorney involved in the case. "They woke up one day and found out that they are living in a toxic waste dump. They have learned that they had been drinking water that can cause cancer."

You can reach Amy Keller at akeller@floridatrend.com