FORT SMITH (KFSM)- Representatives from Whirlpool said they're making progress as they work to clean up the trichloroethylene (TCE) contamination in the groundwater beneath and north of their shuttered factory in Fort Smith.
The company released its annual progress report on Thursday (Jan. 15). It shows TCE concentrations are down in most, but not all areas.
“There`s areas we need to monitor closely because of all of the monitoring wells [both on and off site], 83-percent have either shown to be stable or areas of reduction,” Jeff Noel, Whirlpool VP of Communications and Public Affairs, said.
A monitoring well on Brazil Avenue is an example of an area where the contamination has actually increased, according to Noel. The contamination is a result of a chemical spill at the plant in the 1980s.
The report highlights a 55-percent reduction in the “neck area” of the spill located on the Whirlpool property in the parking lot area north of the northwest corner of the facility. It also shows a 55-percent decrease in the area north of Ingersoll Avenue.
Laretha Plunkett lives in the 1500 block of Jacobs Avenue.
“The assessor has devalued the property because of Whirlpool,” she said.
She said she is involved in a class-action lawsuit for the devaluation of her property.
“We`re continuing to have what I believe to have fruitful discussions with attorneys representing the property owners, and we are committed to finding the right agreement,” Noel said.
Whirlpool representatives said they're working closely with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and city leaders as well. The progress report states, "ADEQ has determined there has been no human exposure and thus no health risks to area residents."
“There`s no way to ingest [TCE], there`s no way to eat it, there`s no way to inhale it, there`s no way to drink it,” Noel said.
Plunkett believes she and her husband experienced related health problems, although they did not file a claim.
Representatives said the contamination, which had spread to a nearby Boys and Girls Club last year, is now contained, but they are monitoring it.
“All the staff and parents of the Boys and Girls Club need to know that that property is safe and safe for them to continue to enjoy,” Noel said.
To see the full progress report, click here.