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Whirlpool issues first annual report on Fort Smith pollution cleanup

Whirlpool on Thursday (Jan. 16) released its annual report detailing the early stages of the cleanup trichloroethylene (TCE) at its former manufacturing facility on the south side of Fort Smith. TCE, a known carcinogen, had been used as a degreasing agent at the facility until the 1980s.

The annual report is the first released by the company as required by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), which made it part of its final Remedial Action Decision Document (RADD) for Corrective Action. The RADD dictates how Whirlpool will cleanup pollution not just at its former manufacturing facility, but also in areas including a neighborhood that lie above a plume of TCE that leaked north of the facility.

The annual report, attributed to Jeff Noel, Whirlpool's corporate vice president of communications and public affairs, outlined the companies remediation efforts to what had occurred in 2013 and what is planned for 2014.

Much of the information from 2013 used the talking points the company has presented to the public previously (quoting from the document):
• Whirlpool reaffirmed its committed to remain in Fort Smith, working with area residents, the Directors and staff of the City of Fort Smith, the State of Arkansas and ADEQ until this situation is resolved.

• All 2013 monitoring activities continue to confirm there is no public health risk, no reason for public concern about vapor intrusion into any residence, and that the boundaries of the TCE plume have no expanded in eight years.

• Whirlpool took a series of steps under supervision from ADEQ to advance the project forward in 2013. This included semiannual groundwater monitoring in March and October, finalization of the Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA) and the Risk management Plan (RMP), submission of the draft Final Remedy Work Plan (Work Plan) to implement the RMP, and commented design data acquisition for effectively implementing the remedy defined in the Remedial Action Decision Document (RADD).

• Whirlpool initiated extensive communication efforts to keep the community informed of important developments, including a new website devoted to this project, participation in two public meetings with the Fort Smith City Directors, and individual conversations with residents who contacted us directly with concerns or questions.

• Whirlpool will continue to push forward in 2014 with the implementation of the RADD issued December 27, 2013 by ADEQ with the most scientifically proven, effective manner possible. At each step along the way, we will continue the efforts initiated in 2013 to keep the Fort Smith community informed.

Noel also said his company, working with environmental consulting firm ENVIRON, had completed pre-design work on ways to implement the requirements of the RADD.

"The pre-design field work took place in September and December 2013. The goal of the pre-design field work is to complement the current site understanding in the source and treatment areas," he said. "The targeted investigative activities will provide a strong foundation for the development and implementation of a successful, full-scale system design to meet the requirements of the RADD."

There was less detail about the company's plans to comply with the recommendations of the RADD in 2014, stating that it would submit its work plan to ADEQ for approval "within 30 days of the approval of the Final RADD," which was effective Dec. 27, 2013.

"Within 30 days of the approval of the Final RADD, Whirlpool will submit a revised Work Plan to ADEQ detailing how the remedy will be implemented and the schedule for completion," Noel said. "In addition, we will provide ADEQ quarterly reports on our progress that will be publicly available on our website."

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Noel also noted the continued marketing of the Whirlpool site to potential buyers. News broke in October 2013 that Spartan Logistics would occupy about 100,000 square feet of the more than 600,000 square foot warehouse and distribution facility near Whirlpool's large manufacturing plant, leaving a lot of the former facility available for development.

"In light of the many attractive attributes of the property, including size, location and amenities of the 167 acre parcel, we remain confident in completing a transaction that will result in long term and productive development on the parcel."

The RADD states that Whirlpool must begin remediation within 60 days of the effective date (Dec. 27) of the RADD and file quarterly reports every Feb. 15, May 15, Aug. 15, and Nov. 15 as well as annual progress reports on Jan. 15.

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