Brockovich to Hold Town Hall on Whirlpool Contamination

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A Fort Smith neighborhood is getting some help in its fight to clean up what was left behind by Whirlpool, after the manufacturing company closed it's doors in July 2012.

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich is coming to town next week.

On Jan. 10, Whirlpool told neighbors that their homes could be affected by a chemical spill that happened at its manufacturing plant on Jenny Lind 32 years ago.

Trichloroethylene, or T.C.E., leaked in the 1980s, and could still be in the ground, according to the company.

That's when Debbie Keith reached out to Brockovich for help in learning more about what impact the spill has in their neighborhood.

"Exactly, what we're dealing with...we're not really sure," Keith said. "You know, they've had 30 years to let us know that it's not safe to be out in the yard and let the kids play or dig in the yard. But nobody decided to share that with us."

"The letter itself said nothing about T.C.E.," Keith said. "All the letter said was that we are trying to have a ground water ordinance passed in your neighborhood. It wasn't until the neighborhood meeting that they told us our ground had been contaminated."

Keith called Environmental Activist Erin Brockovich for help. Brockovich will talk to residents and local leaders at a town hall meeting next week. Robert Bowcock will help Brockovich test soil samples near the plant. He told 5NEWS in an online conversation what all they expect to find.

"The company will claim that it will naturally attenuate or that it will go away on its own," Bowcock said. "Unfortunately we've found that these types of chlorinated solvents have a tendency to last in the ground for about 300 to 400 years."

Keith said she wouldn't have moved into the this neighborhood if she'd known about the spill when it first happened.

"I would've never subjected my children to this," Keith said. "Never. I don't care how attached I am to this home. My kids are the most important thing in my life."

The town hall meeting starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 26 at the Senior Activity Center at 2700 Cavanaugh Road in Fort Smith.

5NEWS did reach out to Whirlpool for a comment about the contamination, but they did not immediately return our calls.

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