story by Ryan Saylor
Whirlpool Corporation has submitted yet another revised Revised Final Work Plan to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) as the company prepares to start remediation efforts well ahead of previous estimates.
In the previous update to the remediation plan in January, the company stated that three phases of chemical oxidation would be necessary for the company to begin to break down trichloroethylene (TCE) in the groundwater below its former Fort Smith manufacturing facility and a neighborhood to the north of the shuttered factory. The first phase was scheduled to begin in Spring 2016, with a second phase to begin a year later.
Earlier plans had indicated a completion date for remediation of 2018.
The latest plan submitted Monday (Feb. 24) outline a revised schedule which would begin phase one remediation work this month, continuing until April. Phase two would begin in May and continue through June, with subsequent phases to follow "based on results of earlier phases," according to the document submitted Jeff Noel, Whirlpool's corporate vice president of communications and public affairs.
Noel wrote that the schedule was able to change significantly due to ADEQ's previous approval of Whirlpool's plans to begin pre-design activities late last year.
"The pre-design data collection has now been completed, which will provide critical information needed to push forward with the next steps," he said.
He said certain uncontrollable circumstances, such as weather and completion of "access agreements," could delay the schedule.
No date was given for when an impermeable soil cover would be applied to the Whirlpool site. The cover was a requirement from ADEQ to ensure that TCE would not resurface at the company's former manufacturing site.
Deputy Fort Smith City Administrator Jeff Dingman said he was pleased with the sped up timeline, though he said the quicker timeline for implementation was not a result of any added pressure from the city.
"No, but throughout the process they've continued to show interest in doing what they need to do and getting it done," he said, adding that the change in schedule was "encouraging."
City Director Keith Lau openly questioned whether the Board of Directors' deliberation on whether to impose nuisance fines against the company as a result of the TCE pollution of not only its site, but the neighborhood north of the site, played any role in the sped up timeline.
"I wonder what, if any, our conversations in the last month have promoted that (speed up) or if that's just something that's happened (coincidentally). Either way, it's good."
Noel gave no further indications for why the company was speeding up the remediation, though he said Whirlpool's commitment to correcting the situation had not wavered.
"As we have stated previously, Whirlpool remains committed to staying in Fort Smith to work with ADEQ, area residents and the City of Fort Smith until this project is complete."