TALLEVAST — Tallevast residents Thursday voiced their disappointment with the decision by Lockheed Martin Corp. officials to not to relocate the community.
Ray Johnson, vice president and chief technical officer for Lockheed, said the decision was based on the company’s “commitment to restore the environmental conditions in the Tallevast community, and the fact that relocation would be inconsistent with that commitment.”
But residents said only cleaning up the pollution left by a former beryllium plan would not solve their problems.
“The impact to the community isn’t just from the exposure to the chemicals,” said Clifford Ward, a member of the community advocacy group FOCUS. “There are emotional and psychological impacts that need to be considered.”
FOCUS president Laura Ward said the decision to not relocate the community will make the situation worse for residents because the cleanup is expected to take 50 years to complete.
“Relocation was suggested three years ago,” Washington said. “The cleanup won’t start for another five to seven — that’s close to 10 years.
“This community is largely made up of people over 55,” she said. “What kind of quality of life will they have when they’re 65?”
FOCUS was formed after it was discovered in 2000 that the groundwater of this predominantly black community was contaminated with the toxic waste left behind from the former Loral American Beryllium plant at 1600 Tallevast Road. Lockheed owned the property when the contamination was discovered, so it is responsible for the cleanup, under the supervision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Johnson met with several members of FOCUS and their attorneys to relate the company’s position and to present plans for a new community center.
After the meeting, several FOCUS leaders said Lockheed’s position on relocation was not acceptable.
The community is reminded every day they live over a contaminated area when they see workers in their streets preparing for the chemical cleanup process, said Wanda Washington, vice president of FOCUS.
The Florida DEP is waiting for comments from FOCUS on the Remedial Action Plan addendum Lockheed submitted in July before allowing the company to proceed.
For FOCUS, relocation of the community to a non-polluted area is only one of several issues they would like to see resolved.
There is the cleanup plan, which it plans to respond to by Oct. 9, and recognition of individual long-term health problems.
Several lawsuits have been filed against Lockheed claiming personal injury and property damage from the exposure to the chemical contamination. The lawsuits have yet to be heard at trial.
State Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said he was disappointed with Lockheed’s decision, but recognized the complexity of the issues.
Galvano had offered a relocation plan in 2007 under which Lockheed would pay most of the expenses, with state and local governments also picking up some of the costs.
“I thought if years ago everyone could come together and accept the relocation plan I offered,” he said, “but over time they got involved in litigation and the opportunities got lost in that.”
Now with Lockheed’s announcement Thursday, said Galvano, “it allows the rift — if there is a rift — to continue.”