Fort Smith Leaders Say They Will Not Pursue Legal Action Against Whirlpool

Fort Smith city leaders said they will not pursue legal action against Whirlpool Tuesday (Feb. 18).

“I feel like the city should have taken some action against them because of the delayed they`ve made in the cleanup,” said Fort Smith city director Pam Weber.

An Illinois law firm wanted to help Fort Smith leaders decide if they can fine Whirlpool for violating the city’s nuisance ordinances by contaminating the soil and groundwater with a toxic chemical.

“I voted against the purposed ordinance tonight,” said Fort Smith city director Kevin Settle. “I just felt like this was an overreached policy.”

Sims Law Office has successfully pursued other cases against corporations in similar situations, according to an attorney with the firm.

City Administrator Ray Gosack said in the past, the city has relied on the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to deal with instances of industrial pollution.

Whirlpool could have faced a $500 fine for the initial contamination and a $250 fine for each day the pollution is not cleaned up.

Gosack said while the spill is believed to have occurred more than a decade ago, the city’s attorney says there is a one-year statute of limitation. However, Gosack said the fines could still add up for Whirlpool.

“The attorney from Illinois believes that each property that has been polluted could be considered a separate violation,” said Gosack. “So there may be 50 or more properties that have been polluted by Whirlpool.”

Several residents living in the contaminated plume have also joined together to file a lawsuit against Whirlpool.

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