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Whirlpool notes troubles with installing pollution monitors near Fort Smith plant

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

Whirlpool’s attempts to get vapor intrusion monitors installed in structures above the potentially cancer-causing plume of trichloroethylene (TCE) have not gone according to plan.

The company recently disclosed to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality that it had not found a property owner who would allow the company to install the monitoring equipment. As a result, the company has been granted a 30-day extension to comply with a request of the city of Fort Smith.

The disclosures on Whirlpool's difficulties and a subsequent request for an extension were included in letters exchanged by the company and ADEQ.

It was in a letter dated April 28 that environmental consulting group ENVIRON, Whirlpool's hired consultants who are tasked with carrying out the remediation plan, told the ADEQ that it was having problems gaining access to structures to install the equipment.

ADEQ acknowledged receipt of the letter and in response, Whirlpool's Corporate Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs Jeff Noel requested the extension on Thursday (June 19).

"In response to the May 19, 2014 ADEQ letter responding to ENVIRON's April 28, 2014 letter regarding our difficulty in gaining access to install soil vapor monitoring points on properties throughout the neighborhood north of the Whirlpool facility in Fort Smith, Arkansas, we respectfully request an additional sixty (60) days to respond in order to allow us to continue our discussions with property owners to gain access to conduct this additional monitoring.”

The request for an extension on the soil vapor monitoring is a reversal from last year, when the company said it was ready to begin work on vapor monitoring earlier than was required by the ADEQ's final remedy work plan, which was not yet approved.

The company said in a letter at the time that it would work with ADEQ to determine locations for the monitoring sites based on two criteria:
1. Proximity to existing off-site groundwater monitoring wells with higher concentrations of TCE; and
2. Proximity to an occupied residential building.

"The idea is to install additional soil gas monitoring points at locations that have higher potential for vapor intrusion to occur compared with other locations in the area," Principal Consultant Greg Gillespie said in an e-mail to ADEQ at the time.

Gillespie also said the work would "commence independent of the Revised Risk Management Plan (RRMP) and Work Plan currently being reviewed by ADEQ," work that now appears to have not yet taken place.

In the request to begin off-site soil vapor monitoring, Whirlpool's environmental consultants said at the time that while their data backed up the company's claims that dangerous levels of TCE have not been found in the soil vapor, "Whirlpool concluded that additional soil gas monitoring points should be installed in order to enhance coverage of the off-site plume.”

In a letter dated Monday (June 23), Tammie Hynum, chief of ADEQ's hazardous waste division, granted an extension to the company, but stopped short of granting the 60 days requested.

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"ADEQ grants Whirlpool a thirty (30) day extension to submitting additional soil gas monitoring locations," she wrote. "If Whirlpool continues to have difficulties securing access from the local property owners after this extension, all documentation showing the efforts put forth by Whirlpool should be submitted to ADEQ.”

Hynum also directed Whirlpool to submit a map within the next month detailing existing soil gas monitoring locations, as well as proposed locations.

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