Source: Arkansas Times, May 23, 2013
By: Max Brantley
Fort Smith residents have filed a lawsuit over chemical contamination of the groundwater in the neighborhood of Whirlpool’s now-closed refrigerator factory in Fort Smith.
Here’s some good background from The City Wire, a Northwest Arkansas digital news site. It recently reported:
Documents reviewed by The City Wire show Fort Smith city officials knew about Whirlpool’s plan to request a groundwater well ban as early as June of last year and that Whirlpool may not have been forthcoming with the city or the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality about its request.
Whirlpool finally disclosed the situation because it wanted the ordinance, since pulled down, as an aid to selling the site.
Details on the lawsuit follow:
Fort Smith, AR (May 23, 2013) — Residents and landowners of the neighborhood north of the former Whirlpool facility in Fort Smith, Arkansas filed suit today in Sebastian County Circuit Court. The two suits seek damages from Whirlpool for the harm caused by a trichloroethylene (TCE) plume emanating from the facility.
The suits allege that Whirlpool used TCE at the facility beginning in 1967 to clean appliances prior to painting. Documents submitted to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality by Whirlpool’s environmental consultant show the TCE plume extends to the subsurface below dozens of properties. The suits further allege that Whirlpool discovered TCE below its facility in the 1980s, but that property owners did not learn of the TCE plume until January of 2013, when Whirlpool proposed a city ordinance to ban drinking water wells in the neighborhood.
TCE is a volatile organic compound. Industrial users have historically used it as a solvent. It is a known carcinogen that can cause adverse impacts to human health and the environment. TCE can break down into harmful daughter products, such as vinyl chloride, after it is released to the environment.
Counsel for the plaintiffs include Sam Ledbetter and Ross Noland of McMath Woods P.A. in Little Rock, and Rick Woods of Taylor Law Partners, LLP in Fayetteville. McMath Woods P.A. represents clients in environmental and personal injury cases. Taylor Law Partners is a general litigation firm comprised of experienced trial attorneys who represent clients at both the trial and appellate levels.