Whirlpool Talking With Residents Affected by Spill

Cleanup of a chemical spill near the former Whirlpool plant in Fort Smith is inching forward. Neighbors, saying more tests need to be done but that they are tired of waiting.

Neighbors told 5NEWS initial tests contamination tests conducted by Environmental Activist Erin Brockovich and her research team came back inconclusive. Neighbors said her teamplans to do more testing but have to get approval from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality before that can happen.

“At this point, I would really like to pack my stuff and just be gone,” Debby Keith, who lives near Whirlpool, said. “If my health weren’t bad I’d be stronger and more prepared to fight. But at this point I’m tired of it already and it’s just getting started.”

Keith is just one of several neighbors who have now met one-on-one with Whirlpool, hoping to see the 30-year-old chemical spill cleaned up.

Sarah Winters, who also lives near Whirlpool, told 5NEWS she is reluctant to believe the company will actually clean up the mess.

“They’re running and I don’t think they’re going to help us,” Winters said.

Even though some neighbors said they’re beyond frustrated with Whirlpool right now, they added they’re prepared to fight what they expect to be a very long battle, in an effort to make sure the contamination is removed for good.

Jeffery Noel, Whirlpool’s Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs, said they’re committed to cleaning up the spill no matter how long that process takes.

“Everyone needs to understand this is a long-term process,” Noel said. “There is not an overnight solution.”

Keith agreed.

“This is just the beginning,” Keith said. “When I said we won the battle but not the war, that’s exactly what it was. It was just a battle and there’s plenty ahead of us.”

Whirlpool said they’re ready to have the spill cleaned up as well, but that it’s all part of a specific process that has to be followed meaning it could be months, or even years, before the contamination is removed.

“I understand exactly why the residents are anxious,” Noel said. “Who wouldn’t be? [Whirlpool has] been in this community for many, many years. We’ve committed to being here until this issue is resolved.”

Noel met individually with neighbors affected by the spill throughout the day Wednesday (April 17) and says he plans to do the same all day Thursday (April 18).

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