Monday, August 16, 2010

Tiny Toxic Florida Town Takes On a Corporate Goliath

August 15, 2010 - The main drag in this tiny blue collar hamlet is nearly hidden west of U.S. 301, a world away from the bustle of nearby Carrabba's, The Fresh Market and Starbucks. Tallevast Road lacks sidewalks, so if you're walking through town, tread gingerly to avoid the work trucks rumbling through. A long-closed plant anchors one end of town, hovering like the ghost of dead industry.

Yet Tallevast retains a small town richness, where news spreads word of mouth, neighbors are often kin, and many, though not all, of the 80 homes maintain the well-kept look of the working class.

Environmental contamination threatens to destroy this historic black town and its heritage. In one of the nation's most emotional environmental divides, the residents find themselves pitted against giant defense contractor Lockheed Martin, Manatee County, and the state of Florida.

The divide takes root at the former American Beryllium Company plant, anchoring five acres at 1600 Tallevast Road across from a community church. Opened in 1961 and shuttered in 1996, the plant manufactured machine parts for nuclear weapons using beryllium-containing metals. Workers inhaled hazardous dust and handled a toxic degreaser that cleaned machine parts.


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