The question of how to clean up contamination at the closed Whirlpool factory caused frustration in the River Valley at a special meeting Tuesday night (Nov. 12th).
For the first time, people who live near the plant got a chance to speak out about trichloroethylene (TCE) and how it's affected their everyday life. The Whirlpool plant in Fort Smith was shut down following revelations about a chemical leak onto nearby properties.
"What are you going to do for the people who have lost value on their property?” said a concerned Whirlpool neighbor.
Whirlpool purposed a plan to clean up the mess. Some of the cleanup plans include covering contaminated soil with asphalt or treating groundwater with a chemical oxidant.
Officials with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality said they are behind the proposed plan. Despite reports of health issues and property values tanking, Whirlpool said a plume of trichloroethylene is stable and under control.
"We are going to treat the residents fairly,” said Whirlpool vice president Jeff Noel. “There have been lawsuits that have been filed. We respect the legal process, and our attorneys are in communication with the attorneys representing the residents."
As frustrated Whirlpool neighbors voiced their concerns to the ADEQ, Fort Smith city director Kevin Settle asked if the purposed plan fails, what's next?
"What we want to know from the ADEQ side, is it safe for the citizens? Is it something that's really going to work, or are we trying to buy a couple years before we have to come up with a different plan?" he said.
Settle said Whirlpool needs to dig out the trichloroethylene, rather than pump more chemicals into the ground.
A date for when the cleanup will start has not been set at this time.
Whirlpool recently leased out the property to Spartan Logistics, an Ohio-based logistics and warehouse company.