Work begins on Whirlpool pollution mitigation plan

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

A little more than a month after the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality presented its plan to address contamination caused by Whirlpool's admitted leak of trichloroethylene (TCE) into groundwater in the 1980s, action is being taken at the contamination site.

According to ADEQ Public Outreach and Assistance Division Chief Katherine Benenati, crews from ENVIRON will be in the area this week.

"Whirlpool’s consultants are in the field doing pre-design testing of the soils in preparation for implementing the RADD after the first of the year," she said in an e-mail.

The RADD, or Remedial Action Decision Document, was first released in October after months of discussions between the appliance maker and ADEQ on how best to clean up the TCE contamination. ADEQ recommended a variety of methods for cleanup, all of which were explained at a public forum ADEQ hosted in Fort Smith in November.

The primary method of clean up will consist of the use of chemicals to neutralize the TCE.

"ADEQ has determined containment of the soils and In-Situ Chemical Oxidation/Reduction coupled with Monitored Natural Attenuation (MNA) for the groundwater are the most effective remedial approaches at the Whirlpool facility," the document states.

The RADD also recommends covering part of the contaminated Whirlpool site with asphalt at a cost of $600,000.

"The cover will be designed to prevent the water from migrating through the contaminated soils. The cover will be coupled with an institutional control to prevent excavation of the on-site impacted soils. In addition, Whirlpool will implement a soil gas monitoring program to be sampled on a quarterly basis."

The RADD also calls for institutional controls to be put into place, such as bans on drilling groundwater wells in the contaminated area, generally in and around the Whirlpool site and immediately north of the facility. A previous attempt by Whirlpool to have the Fort Smith Board of Directors impose a ban on groundwater wells was defeated.
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In addition to ENVIRON conducting pre-design testing, ADEQ was at the contamination site Tuesday (Dec. 17) conducting their own sampling, according to Benenati. She went on to say the agency conducted "advancement and sampling of soil borings using Geoprobe. Soil samples were screened using PID and select samples were sent to laboratory for analysis. A grab groundwater sample was also collected for laboratory analysis."

Residents may have also noticed crews and large equipment digging into the ground. Benenati said ADEQ was using a "Membrane Interface Probe (MIP). This device detects the presence of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) using a probe pushed into the soils."

Once ENVIRON begins to fully implement the RADD, it is estimated that the company will have spent about $5.4 million on chemicals associated with the in-situ chemical oxidation. That is in addition to the $600,000 spent on the asphalting of the contamination on site at Whirlpool's former manufacturing plant, bringing the total cost of cleanup to $6 million.

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All the cleanup will be in addition to a restriction placed on the deed of the Whirlpool site, restricting some activities that can be performed at the site.

"A deed notification will be filed with appropriate land records office. The deed notification would identify the kinds of contaminants present, and describe activities that should not be conducted at the facility and grant site access to ADEQ. During the performance of routine groundwater monitoring at the facility, a facility evaluation will be conducted to ensure that there is no on-site use of the contaminated groundwater."

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