Officials Monitor Whirlpool Pollution At Boys And Girls Club
FORT SMITH (KFSM) – Environmental officials say they are monitoring leaked chemicals from the Whirlpool Corporation’s Fort Smith site that reached the Boys And Girls Club northeast of the plant. The club’s director says the site is safe.
The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality released a revised plan to clean up the trichloroethylene pollution and forwarded the information to Fort Smith administrators and city directors Friday. The revised plan includes a notice that the TCE chemical has been detected underneath a portion of the Boys And Girls Club on 21st Street and outlines a plan to deal with contamination in the area.
The plan states groundwater contaminated with TCE at levels above the maximum allowed by the ADEQ were discovered at the site. While the levels reflect a slightly-elevated cancer risk, none of the levels are above the Environmental Protection Agency’s acceptable cancer risk range. The documents state on-site routine workers and construction workers could be exposed to the groundwater contamination or the vapor plume still present in the area.
Boys And Girls Club officials have been told by ADEQ the site is safe for children and employees, and the measured groundwater pollution is just over the acceptable level for drinking water, said Jerry Gladwell, director of the Fort Smith Boys And Girls Club. None of the groundwater is used for drinking water.
“The contamination found in the groundwater at the Boys And Girls Club site does not pose a risk to those using the facility,” a statement from ADEQ reads.
Environmental officials have set up four monitoring wells at the site, as ADEQ continues to examine pollution levels. The contamination is limited to groundwater several feet underground, Gladwell said.
The revised ADEQ plan also includes provisions on how to remove the most contaminated soil near the former Whirlpool plant. The documents state crews will need to use radiation and thermal conduction to remove contaminants through vaporization, with the contaminated vapors being collected into a vapor treatment device.
Crews will also remove contaminated soil in area near the plant building, the documents state.
Whirlpool representative Jeff Noel is scheduled to brief Fort Smith city leaders Jan. 27 on the changes and update them on how the cleanup is progressing, according to the report.
The new information comes one month after Whirlpool representatives said groundwater contamination was decreasing and TCE chemicals had not stretched beyond the previously-investigated boundaries.
Whirlpool officials announced last year TCE had leaked from the plant and spread north into neighboring private residential properties. TCE was used as a decreasing solvent at the plant between the late 1960s and early 1980s.
Several people whose property was affected by the contamination plume filed lawsuits against the company looking for compensation following the announcement of the leak.
Whirlpool in July announced a resolution reached with the city of Fort Smith and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality in which the company would continue to clean up the contaminated area and possibly compensate nearby residents for the lost value on their properties from the TCE contamination.
That settlement was thrown out by a federal judge in Fort Smith, though, who noted the case did not follow the requirements for a class-action suit.
Click here to read the ADEQ’s revised plan, forwarded to the city on Friday (Dec. 19).