FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) - Leaders in Fort Smith have rejected a plan to use the city’s nuisance laws to fine Whirlpool Corp. for contamination at a former plant site.
The Fort Smith Board of Directors voted 5-2 Tuesday to reject an attorney’s officer to seek a fine against Whirlpool for contaminating soil and groundwater with the chemical trichloroethylene decades ago. Whirlpool is working with state environmental officials on a cleanup plan for the site.
“I’ve read the two legal opinions by our own city counsel, both of which question the validity of our ability to prosecute or to collect fines under the nuisance ordinances,” Ward 1 Director Keith Lau said. “I think we would have extreme problems trying to collect that.”
Trichloroethylene was used at the plant as a solvent from the late 1960s into the early 1980s. The factory, which produced refrigerators, closed in 2012.
At-Large Director Pam Weber, who voted in favor of pursuing fines against Whirlpool, described the company as “a great community citizen when they were here.”
“They employed a lot of people here,” she said. “I don’t fault them for having an accident at their plant. What I do fault is the fact that for 12 years, 15, 20, they have kind of not really done anything to correct their wrong.”
Whirlpool’s cleanup plan approved by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality calls for full-scale chemical treatment of the TCE in early 2016, according to the Southwest Times Record newspaper (https://bit.ly/1d047jz ).
Information from: Southwest Times Record, https://www.swtimes.com/
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