Whirlpool denies that pollution plume is growing

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 79 views 

Environmental consultants for Whirlpool have challenged the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality's assertion that a toxic plume of trichloroethylene (TCE) near the company's former manufacturing facility in Fort Smith could be moving.

In an official response dated today, toxicologist Tamara R. House-Knight of ENVIRON Corp. said fluctuations in the plume do not represent a movement of the plume.

"We appreciate ADEQ's observation of the slight changes in concentrations of TCE within the plume, however these fluctuations in the existing southern wells presented in the Monitoring Report do not suggest that there is an expansion of the plume to the south," she wrote. "Although TCE concentrations fluctuate within the plume, the groundwater data for monitoring wells ITMW-05, ITMW-09 and ITMW-10 presented in the 2012-2013 Monitoring Report were generally consistent with data collected in this area during the prior sampling events from 2008 to 2011."

The response comes on the same day an attorney representing several property owners and residents confirmed that the original lawsuits, filed on May 23, would be amended within weeks, likely doubling or tripling the number of plaintiffs seeking damages or other relief from the company for property damage caused by the TCE contamination.

Attorney Ross Noland of the McMath Woods Law Firm in Little Rock said his company would like employee the assistance of a geologist to conduct independent testing of the potentially cancer-causing TCE plume, which resulted from the use of a degreasing solvent at the Whirlpool plant during the 1980s.

"We do have a consulting geologist that we have worked with in multiple cases and we will be consulting with him throughout the process, but as far as specifics, we haven't made up on mind on specifics (about what to test)."

The letter today from House-Knight said TCE had not been found south of the plume in tests done since the year 2000, including during the fall of 2012 and spring of 2013.

"Also, in the monitoring well to the east, ITMW-04, TCE concentrations have been either non-detect or detected below the MCL since 2003 with intermittent TCE concentrations detected above the MCL," she wrote. "These wells assist in bounding the general extent of the plume and show that the plume as perviously delineated has not expanded. … Collectively, these data reaffirm that the defined southern plume is not expanding and continues to be confined to the Whirlpool property."

House-Knight said the company welcomed the "opportunity to discuss this letter and associated concerns with you at the earliest convenience."

No date has yet been set for a discussion between ADEQ and representatives for Whirlpool.