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.

4 comments

  • arnold fudpucker

    Too bad we don’t have any lawyers in Fort Smith who are good enough to handle this. Seems like this city sends an awful lot of money out of town.

  • Ben

    The city of Fort Smith is on a down hill slope! I grew up in the area when Ray Baker was Mayor and thing were run right! Sandy Sanders is a disaster waiting to happen and the City board needs to get with the program. I sit back and watch how things are ran down there now, there is no way I would ever think of moving back!

  • Josh

    I for one am glad they aren’t pursuing this. The whole thing was initiated by the law firm and ONLY asked for a third of the profits. If the board had started the process, that’s one thing. But this smelled like a municipal version of an ambulance chaser law firm. They have other more important things to waste their time debating and not taking care of instead.

  • Systems Tender

    They should have sued Whirlpool. This greedy company helped push for Nafta and then moved their production lines to Mexico. They screwed the employees who had worked hard for the company for many years. As far as the city of Fort Smith being in the middle of a downhill spiral, I couldn’t agree more! Kevin Settle is a big part of the problem. People living on the streets just trying to survive while the city focuses on a waterpark and marshall’s museum. Taxes continue to climb………

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