BELLA VISTA (KFSM) —After meeting with Governor Asa Hutchinson on Friday (Feb. 15), the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) will file a supplemental appropriation bill giving the ADEQ the authority to contract out the work that needs to be done to extinguish an underground fire at a former stump dump site in Bella Vista.
The ADEQ says the appropriation bill is a "necessary step toward financing the work that needs to be done."
A press release sent out by the ADEQ on Tuesday (Feb. 19) says that the organization has been exploring more cost-effective alternatives to put out the fire and that they are evaluating multiple proposals from qualified fire response experts.
The proposals are being evaluated based on viability, completion time, and further impact to residents around the site.
"As we evaluate a path forward, ADEQ continues to keep the concerns of Bella Vista's residents in mind. ADEQ has spoken with many residents impacted by the smoke from the underground fire. We understand the concerns; we are listening; and we are working with experts to create the most comprehensive solution for this community," ADEQ Director Becky W. Keogh says.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson released the following statement about his meeting with the ADEQ on Friday:
"I'm pleased by the progress ADEQ and the Arkansas Forestry Commission have made so far in on-site preparation at the Trafalgar fire location. In our meeting Friday, ADEQ shared several proposals for on-site cleanup, and I expect a decision in the coming days. I continue to share the concerns of the Bella Vista residents, and I am committed to getting this complex situation resolved as quickly—and safely—as possible."
The ADEQ says on-site preparation will continue throughout the next few weeks.
ADEQ is working with EnSafe (a global provider of environmental, health and safety, engineering, and technology solutions), local and county officials, and other entities to contract on-site working, including:
- A staging area that must be created around the site by clearing trees and other vegetation.
- An access road must be constructed.
- The construction of a support system to facilitate fire control and fire response, which will vary depending on the plan selected to extinguish the fire and eliminate the smoke.
The ADEQ is working with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to secure federal funding for the stump dump site. At this time, Arkansas has not received any financial assistance from the EPA.
The ADEQ says $7.3 million of state funds has been put towards extinguishing the fire.
Immediate funding has been made available to take measures to reduce the spread of fire, create fire breaks, deploy monitoring, and develop a site-specific response plan, according to the ADEQ.
Asa Hutchinson signed an emergency declaration in January aimed at resolving the underground fire that state health officials say is polluting the air.