Gov. Hutchinson Says Stump Dump Clean Up Will Cost More Than Expected

BELLA VISTA (AP/KFSM) — Gov. Asa Hutchinson says it could cost millions more than first estimated to extinguish an underground fire at a landfill containing wood waste.

A preliminary response plan from an engineering firm contracted by the state estimates cleanup at the Bella Vista stump dump on Trafalgar  Road could cost $21 million to $37 million. The project was initially estimated to cost up to $10 million.

Hutchinson says he’s asked the state Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and engineering firm EnSafe to find a more cost effective solution.

EnSafe’s draft response action plan calls for smoke mitigation measures, flooding of the area and efforts to reduce storm water runoff.

The draft plan provides seven alternatives with related costs and risks — ranging from smoke mitigation and fire management to complete excavation and fire extinction.

ADEQ visited the site on Thursday (Jan. 17) to begin preparing the fire break and acquire necessary access agreements.

Funds from the ADEQ’s Remedial Action Trust Fund will be used for the on-site preparation and site controls.

On-site preparation will include clearing trees and other vegetation for a staging area around the site, a 15-foot fire break, an access road, and an exploratory trench.

The estimated time frame for the work to be completed is six to 12 weeks.

Bella Vista Fire Chief Steve Sims says the fire could be burning more than 50 feet (15 meters) underground. The issue was first discovered after firefighters were dispatched to the site in July.

State health officials declared the air round the property ‘unhealthy’ and urged residents to avoid prolonged exposure to the area.

A widely used industrial chemical, benzene was detected at .022 parts-per-million within the boundaries of the former stump dump.

Benzene can cause serious health effects if “a person is exposed to it either in high doses (a lot of it) or over a long amount of time,” according to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH).

However, the EPA doesn’t consider this an immediate health concern because it doesn’t exceed the two-week to seven-year exposure screening level of .03 ppm.

The city of Bella Vista has set up a website to track the progress of the fire.

Brown’s Tree Care owns the property, which is adjacent to Trafalgar and Kingsland roads.

However, neither it or Blue Mountain Storage, the previous owner, or the Bella Vista Property Owner’s Association appeared to have a permit from ADEQ to operate a disposal site.

The stump dump was leased by the Bella Vista Property Owners Association from 2008 to 2016.

It was used as a collection area for residents’ stumps, brush, and leaves.

ADEQ reported that the site consists of much more than vegetative debris, including:

  • wiring
  • miscellaneous construction debris
  • refined petroleum products
  • automotive batteries
  • swimming pool liners

The POA closed the stump dump down in 2016 after it reached capacity.

ADEQ also ordered the POA to close another stump dump on the west side of town earlier this year.

Hutchinson said the potential for any liability issues related to dumping and burning at the site will be addressed at a later date.

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