Other plants experienced difficulties

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Two tantulum-production plants in the Eastern United States have experienced differing degrees of difficulties.

Gilah Podell, assistant to the chief executive at H.C. Stark, said Friday there was an explosion and fire at its Newton, Mass., plant in 1993, but the incident had been resolved.

The facility is located in a commercial area abutting a large number of residential properties.

"We have emergency response teams on site. The people are trained to handle any possible scenario," she said of the 400-employee facility.

H.C. Stark has been processing tantalum powder since the 1940s or 1950s.

Two area farmers filed a suit in September 2001 against Cabot Performance Materials in Pennsylvania, claiming excessively high levels of fluoride released by the plant were absorbed by vegetation on their farms, slowly poisoning their animals for several years, causing low milk production, abnormal births and sudden, horrible deaths. The U.S. Environmental Protection agency has blamed poor farming practices for the illnesses.

Niotan Plant Manager Carlos Rerad said there would be no fluoride emissions at the Mound House facility.

"Cabot processes the ores, creating more EPA concerns than we have. Our only emissions will be argon gas, carbon dioxide and steam from the water used during the processing. We eliminate soluble fluoride by converting it into insoluble fluoride," he explained.

Rerad said the plant would be very secure.

"It is a very serious business and we have to be careful on how we handle things. It requires very well trained employees," he said.

Rerad has been involved in the tantalum powder processing business since 1961 and has worked for other companies at tantalum-related businesses throughout the world.


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