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Residents of Lowell neighborhood report plastic particles in air, claiming nearby factory to blame

Lowell residents living near the Moisture Shield manufacturing plant report seeing plastic particles flying through the air and into their backyards.

LOWELL, Ark. — There are concerns about MoistureShield's manufacturing plant where people living nearby are reporting seeing plastic particles flying through the air and into their backyards. 

“I don’t want our time to be cut short due to any kind of health impact it may have on us,” said Merielle Kalos. 

Merielle Kalos, her husband and two young children moved into their Lowell home in January. When they purchased the house, they were under the impression the factory on the other side of their backyard was relocating, but later found out that wasn’t the case.  

Credit: ADEQ

"Pretty soon after we moved in, we started noticing the really intense smell of burning plastic and when we were playing outside, every time we came outside there was just this white coating, this white dust coating on our swing set and our slide," she said. 

MoistureShield produces a reclaimed material from plastic film and bags. The material is densified to make pellets that are used at another one of its factories. 

Kalos says she was seeing dust at first, but later found out it was actually plastic particles coming from the factory.  

"We have this beautiful backyard that we can’t use, like most of the day because our health is at risk by breathing in these particles," she said. "You know, we don’t know what kind of health impact that will have on us."

Kalos says when it rains, plastic pieces also wash into their yard and that she has reached out to MoistureShield on multiple occasions but hasn’t heard back. She’s also been in contact with Arkansas the Division of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and the City of Lowell, saying both have been very helpful. 

Paul Pillaro is the code enforcement and building inspection officer for the City of Lowell. He says the city first started receiving calls back in March about plastic bags flying through the air and about how unsightly the conditions were on the property.  

"I went out and was able to see the plastic bags leaving the property, so I issued citations for that and for the unsightly conditions. Since then, they are working with us to get that taken care of," he said. 

He then received complaints about plastic particles or dust leaving the factory’s property and ending up on the neighboring property. Pillaro says he contacted state regulators and the plant has been proactive in making some changes.

Credit: ADEQ

"They are talking about building a pad and fencing to hold their product to keep it from flying around," Pillaro said. "I know they have cleaned the place. They brought a company in and did quite a bit of cleaning."

The ADEQ has received three complaints about the factory and notes that an air compliance inspector visits the property regularly. 

This picture, taken by the inspector, shows plastic particles accumulated on the ground below one of the factory’s vents. He also found totes of fluff and spilled material on the ground which, according to an inspection report, could become airborne.  

Credit: ADEQ
Credit: ADEQ

Kalos says she wants the factory shut down because it’s an environmental health hazard to her neighborhood.  

"It is disheartening because we spent so much money on this house and were under the impression that they were going to leave and we had no idea they were doing any sort of hazardous work behind us and had we known, we probably wouldn’t have bought this house honestly, but now we kind of, especially in this market, there is nowhere else for us to go," she said. 

5NEWS reached out to MoistureShield and they issued the following response:

 "As a business that has been operating in the area for over five years and employs 350+ residents in Northwest Arkansas, we take the concerns of our neighbors and community members seriously. We can affirm that the MoistureShield facility located in Lowell is currently operating in compliance with state and local governments. Furthermore, we proactively developed plans earlier this year to build a containment structure onsite for pre-processed items, though not required by regulators. We are eager to move forward with this project upon confirmation from city officials."

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