Fort Smith Realtor questions Whirlpool’s ‘well’ request

by The City Wire staff ( 11 views 

Jerome Flusche is concerned that Whirlpool Corp. is trying to leave Fort Smith without cleaning up chemicals that may remain in the ground near the company’s large manufacturing facility.

In June, Whirlpool closed its refrigeration production plant in Fort Smith. The move resulted in about 1,000 lost jobs when the plant closed. However, Whirlpool, which employed more than 4,500 at the Fort Smith plant in 2006, moved production out of the plant for several years prior to the closing.

According to Flusche, a Realtor with Kralicek & Flusche in Fort Smith, Whirlpool is in the process of asking the city of Fort Smith to approve an ordinance banning groundwater well use on property near the company’s idle Fort Smith plant. Flusche said the real estate company owns property in the area Whirlpool has included in the request.

Robert Jones III, an attorney with the Fayetteville office of Tulsa-based law firm of Conners & Winters, conducted a Thursday (Jan. 10) meeting with potentially affected property owners. Jones, who represents Whirlpool, followed the meeting with a Friday e-mail saying the company would delay its push for the ordinance.

“We are in the process of compiling materials to send to you and will be back in touch in a few days. In an effort to allow more time to review this material and address any concerns you may have, we are not going to present the ordinance to the Board of Directors on Tuesday. We will be sure to let you know well in advance of the date, time and location when we will present to the Board. In the meantime, if you have any additional questions, concerns, comments, or solutions, please do not hesitate to contact me,” Jones noted in an e-mail to those who attended the Thursday night meeting.

Flusche is worried the groundwater could contain TCE (trichloroethylene), which is commonly used as an industrial cleaner. The compound has also been named a carcinogen.

“Frequently found at Superfund sites across the country, TCE’s movement from contaminated ground water and soil, into the indoor air of overlying buildings, is of serious concern. EPA already has drinking water standards for TCE and standards for cleaning up TCE at Superfund sites throughout the country,” noted this report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Property owners would be “adversely affected by this proposed ordinance if the contamination is not corrected,” according to Flusche.

“We are requesting full disclosure from Whirlpool regarding the tests that have been done on the sample wells along with the health concerns there may be,” Flusche noted in a letter to the city.

He said an ordinance passed without full disclosure does not serve the interest of the property owners.

“It only covers up existing safety and health issues will not prosper property values and provides no convenience for the inhabitants i.e. property owners,” Flusche wrote.

The City Wire has requested comment from Whirlpool.