Trench Around Bella Vista Stump Dump Fire Saves $7.5M

BELLA VISTA (AP) — A trench around an underground fire at an Arkansas landfill containing wood waste has saved up to $7.5 million in cleanup costs, according to environmental officials.

Engineering consultant Environmental Works Inc. dug the trench last month around the Bella Vista stump dump to assess the waste and locate the fire, The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

The trench has reduced cleanup costs and environmental damage by stopping the flames from spreading to nearby properties, according to Donnally Davis, a spokesman with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

"By stopping the fire from spreading, an estimated 25,000 to 50,000 cubic yards of debris will not have to be quenched, excavated, or disposed, saving the state an estimated $3.5 to $7.5 million," Davis said.

Other steps to contain the fire including building access roads to the site and a temporary weir to collect water that will be used on the site's surface, the department said.

Cleanup could cost $21 million to $37 million, said Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

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

The Bella Vista Property Owners Association operated the dump from 2003 to 2016, said Tom Judson, the association's chief operating officer. The site was then covered with soil and closed.

Debris at the site includes wood, car parts, tires, scrap metal, plastic and rubber, according to a status report.

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