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Plant fully dismantled in Tallevast

MANATEE -- The infamous Loral American Beryllium Plant in Tallevast was fully dismantled Tuesday.

When the last piece of the last building was pulled apart and hoisted into a roll-off container for shipment to a safe spot, it left nothing but a concrete slab.

Gone was the building where men like Errol Darville of Tallevast worked with beryllium, an extremely heat resistant metal.

It was the solvents used in milling beryllium that would end up causing a 200-acre plume of contaminated groundwater, said Gary Cambre, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin Corp., the company that now owns the plant.

Lockheed Martin views Tuesday’s historic dismantling as the beginning of a bright new chapter in Tallevast’s history, a chapter where Lockheed can help restore the environment of Tallevast, Cambre said.

Some ideas Lockheed has for that bright chapter include improvements to the community center and new street lights, Cambre added.

But some Tallevast residents do not view the final dismantling of the beryllium plant as a positive sign.

For Robyn Darville, who lives a half block from the concrete slab and is the wife of Errol Darville, the only way closure could truly be achieved is if Lockheed Martin moves out all the residents.

“Do you think flowers and swing sets will make it better,” Robyn Darville said of the plans to improve the community center. “The problem is still there. I don’t care about flowers and swing sets and new windows. How can I still be happy? It’s still the same place. The issues are still there.”

Darville believes the groundwater contamination will be in the cement slab and is certainly in the ground under and around it.

Lockheed has committed to begin building a large water treatment facility on the concrete slab by spring, which will clean up the plume, although it will take 48 years, Cambre said.

Tallevast residents battled Lockheed Martin for five years in a lawsuit that recently reached a settlement.

“It didn’t really matter to me that they tore the building down on Tuesday,” Darville said. “It still doesn’t make me feel better. The highest degree of the poison is in the cement slab and in the ground under it.”

Darville was referring to the fact that the solvents used for milling the beryllium stored in cement containers underground would later leech into the groundwater.

Lockheed was careful to reduce dust in the air during the dismantling of the plant by using a “Dust Destroyer,” a large water cannon that sprays a powerful mist that traps the dust, Cambre said.

But Tallevast residents were alarmed by the water it produced, Darville said.

“It was terrible,” Darville said of the days since Dec. 1 when the dismantling began. “They should have moved us out during this process. I was standing outside and dust and water were flying everywhere. It was windy Monday and Tuesday. Cars got wet from the dust and water. If you were walking in Tallevast, you got wet.”

Cambre said while there might have been water in the air, it was Manatee County tap water being fed into the Dust Destroyer.

“The water was drinkable that was used in the operation,” Cambre said.

Lockheed Martin has spent $30 million so far on its efforts to clean up the plant site, Cambre added.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.

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