Residents of Arkansas neighborhood near former Whirlpool refrigerator plant asking company to reimburse them for reduced property values assessed after it was disclosed that hazardous chemical seeped into groundwater more than two decades ago

FORT SMITH, Arkansas , October 14, 2013 () – FORT SMITH RESIDENTS SAY PROPERTY VALUES FELL NEAR WHIRLPOOL SITE BECAUSE OF CONTAMINATION

Residents of the neighborhood near a former Whirlpool Corp. refrigerator plant are asking the company to reimburse them for reduced property values assessed after it was disclosed that a hazardous chemical had seeped into groundwater more than two decades ago.

Sebastian County Assessor Becky Yandell lowered property values for 75 homes and businesses after Whirlpool disclosed in January that it had found trichloroethylene in groundwater beneath its plant in 1989 and that by 2000 it had migrated to the neighborhood.

Raymond Flowers, a former Whirlpool employee who has renovated his home over the last three years, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1ckrExl ) that the appraised value of his house fell from $59,000 to $21,000.

"We want the full amount for the value of the home and property and compensation for future health issues," said Flowers, who worked for the company for 35 years until it closed the local plant in June 2012.

Debbie Keith, another resident of the neighborhood near the plant, said her appraised value fell from $86,000 to $40,000 and that the company should make up the difference.
"I need to be able to go somewhere else and build again," she said.

Whirlpool has told city directors it plans to neutralize the chemical under the former plant and let the chemical naturally decompose beneath the neighborhood. Arkansas regulators have said they intend to agree with the plan. A public hearing has been set for Nov. 12.

Whirlpool and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality say a thick layer of clay and silt separates the contaminated groundwater from people on the surface, and the company has told city directors there is no indication that vapors will seep up from the ground and into homes.

A number of neighbors have sued, claiming trespass, nuisance, negligence and violation of the Arkansas Soil Waste Management Act. The company said it is meeting with lawyers to discuss a way to compensate property owners if they accept a ban on water-well drilling in the neighborhood.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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