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Whirlpool: TCE pollution near Boys & Girls Club poses no risk

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

Whirlpool Corporation said in a statement Thursday (Aug. 28) that previously detected TCE contamination near a south Fort Smith Boys and Girls Club facility that originated at its shuttered facility posed no risk and was not detected in the majority of water samples taken at the club's property.

The company previously disclosed the discovery of trichloroethylene (TCE), a potentially cancer causing chemical used as a degreasing agent at Whirlpool's former Fort Smith manufacturing facility, in an Aug. 4 letter to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. A revised work plan was proposed in the Aug. 4 letter, as well as testing on the Boys and Girls Club site and a site owned by the city of Fort Smith.

In a letter dated Thursday (Aug. 28), ENVIRON's Michael Ellis — Whirlpool's environmental consultant — said sampling and testing at the site found nearly no TCE contamination at the Boys and Girls Club.

"In summary, following a well-defined scientific process, no trichloroethylene (TCE) was found in any soil samples or in eight of the nine groundwater samples taken at the Boys and Girls Club property," Ellis wrote to the ADEQ.

"These results indicate that impacted groundwater only marginally extends beyond the boundaries of the Jenny Lind Road expansion project. The impacted groundwater is only beneath a small corner of the undeveloped piece of the Boys and Girls Club property that will be separated from the rest of the Boys and Girls Club property by the Ingersoll Avenue Expansion project."

Ellis added that no TCE was found in surface water samples taken from runoff originating at the Whirlpool site and flowing into a drainage ditch that flows along Jenny Lind Road beside the Boys and Girls Club's parking lot.

In a statement, Whirlpool Vice President Jeff Noel said testing completed by ENVIRON on Whirlpool's behalf to confirm only minimal amounts of TCE contamination were part of a "well-defined scientific process" and found "no health risk to anyone" using the Boys and Girls Club or playing in the non-profits fields.

"No TCE was found in soils, in drainage areas, or in 8 of the 9 groundwater samples taken on the Boys and Girls Club property. The only sample with TCE above detection limits was taken beneath an undeveloped area right near the road expansion, and even in this limited, isolated area, there continues to be no exposure pathway to TCE," Noel said.

He also said the company would continue with its efforts outlined in a revised remediation plan submitted to ADEQ to continue monitoring of the site.

"We will now be working with the Boys and Girls Club and ADEQ on the installation of four permanent monitoring wells in order to ensure that we have ongoing information about the situation in this area.”

Ellis said in his letter to the ADEQ that a request has been made of the club to allow the monitoring.

The discovery and subsequent testing came about following the discovery of additional levels of TCE at the northeast corner of the Whirlpool facility.

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"A Final Northeast Corner Investigation Report will be prepared after the proposed monitoring wells are installed and sampled," Ellis wrote. "This future report will contain all documentation prepared for this investigation including logs for membrane interface probes (MIPs), soil probes and monitoring wells, and laboratory data reports."

According to Ellis, a copy of the report will be submitted to ADEQ, with a copy being provided to the Boys and Girls Club.

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