Clyde, Ohio is not the only place affected by environmental issues caused by Whirlpool. In Fort Smith, Arkansas, a chemical spill at the now-closed Whirlpool plant has diminished the value of homes in the area and is also suspected to be the cause of area resident’s health problems.
Trichloroethylene Leaks in Fort Smith
The chemical spill involves the leaking of Trichloroethylene, or TCE, into the groundwater at the Whirlpool plant between the late 1960s and early 1980s. TCE, a known carcinogen, was found in the groundwater at the plant’s site, as well as under about two dozen homes near the site.
Trichloroethylene was used as a degreasing solvent at the plant. Whirlpool Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs, Jeff Noel, said that once the company became aware of the concerns surrounding the carcinogen, they stopped using it.
Property Values Ruined
The chemical spill has been considered a disaster by Sebastian County Assessor, Becky Yandell. She explained how the home’s values will be adjusted and it is unlikely that those residents will ever be able to sell their homes. Yandell explained that the stigma of the chemical spill results in the homes never being able to sell.
One resident of the Fort Smith area, Debbie Keith, believes that the TCE leak has not only caused her home’s value to decrease, but is also to blame for her health problems. She is 47-years-old and disabled with no doctor able to tell her why.
Erin Brockovich Conducts Testing at Whirlpool
At Debbie Keith’s request, environmental activist Erin Brockovich held a meeting with Fort Smith residents in March 2013. Brockovich’s associate, environmental investigator Bob Bowcock, expressed his thoughts on Whirlpool’s maps providing the extent of TCE contamination. He stated, “I can tell you the area of impact is going to be greater than this. We’re quite confident of that just looking at the data sheet.”
Bowcock also explained that the closed plant is in clear violation of the Clean Water Act. He explained that actions need to be taken as he guarantees pollution came into the community during the last rainstorm. Bowcock believes that there is leaking taking place today.
Brockovich and Bowcock explained in late March that they would be conducting tests and would also push Whirlpool to start testing as well.
This serious environmental issue joins the news waves just as things in Clyde, Ohio are heating up. A class action lawsuit was filed against Whirlpool Inc. on behalf of area families affected by the cancer cluster in the area.
We will continue to update readers on the progression of the issues in Fort Smith, Arkansas as well as the case in Clyde, Ohio. Whirlpool is now immersed in environmental issues due to past practices and we look forward to seeing how they react to both.