Luckey Beryllium clean-up to cost taxpayers $244 million

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It may look like an old barn, but tearing down a factory from the 1940s is costing you - the taxpayer, nearly two hundred and fifty million dollars.

While the cleanup crew wears special safety masks, neighbors have been living nearby for decades with lots of questions.

The work to clean up the Brush Wellman beryllium plant started last year and will continue for another decade. We can't go past fencing because there is just too much radiation. But the workers wear specialized respirators and full-body suits.

"Radioactive materials, primarily radium, thorium and uranium. As well as lead and beryllium," Steve Vriesen said. Vriesen works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a project manager at the Buffalo office.

That's what's left in the ground under the crumbling beryllium plant off of 582. We saw the team from Idaho-based Portage packing up dirt to take to a Wayne hazmat disposal facility.

"It's excavation and off-site disposal of the contaminated materials," Vriesen said. "So again, although it seems like it's been a long time, that's just the process that we follow."

"We do want the buildings taken down," Steph Aspacher said.

Aspacher has lived in Luckey her whole life. She says she's used to the sight of the plant.

"It's just how it's always looked," Aspacher said of Luckey.

But where did all of these toxins come from?

"Production of the first nuclear weapons, basically it produced beryllium compounds, which are used in the nuclear industry," Vriesen said.

Steve Vriesen from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says any groundwater contamination is isolated to the site itself. But when customers come here to the Luckey Junction ask Steph if she drinks the water herself?

"No you didn't go there as a kid," Aspacher said of the plant. "You were just told by your parents to not go there and play."

The contractors have machines that sniff the air for radiation and toxins. The crew also constantly wets the dirt to keep it from getting airborne... so is there reason to be worried about radiation poisoning?

"Right now the impacts are little to none," Vriesen said.

The goal is that you'd never be able to tell a radioactive plant was ever here. But what do locals want to see next door?

"Nothing. Just grass. {Laughs} I don't know if it would be safe enough for other stuff there," Aspacher said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tells us that once they're done, there will be no restrictions on what the 40 acre plot of land can be used for. It may even be used to grow produce like the surrounding fields.