Questions

What is the nature of the problem identified at the former Whirlpool manufacturing facility in Fort Smith?

What is the nature of the problem identified at the former Whirlpool manufacturing facility in Fort Smith?
Until the 1980s, Whirlpool used certain solvents in its manufacturing processes. Some of those solvents contained TCE, a commonplace practice in manufacturing at the time. We discontinued the use of TCE-containing solvents in the 1980s when better alternatives became available.

Whirlpool began voluntary site investigation activities in the late 1980s based on the impacts discovered during the closure of an underground storage tank (unrelated to TCE). The initial investigation started with a series of soil borings and groundwater monitoring wells on Whirlpool’s property in 1989.

In 2001, we confirmed that some off-site impact to groundwater north of the facility had occurred due to migration of TCE from the groundwater below our property. Testing conducted in 2014 indicated that incidental historical releases of TCE from degreasing operations in and around the former degreaser building located in the northwest corner of the site are likely be the primary source.

Whirlpool’s extensive work in Fort Smith has resulted in significant progress including the completion of required and supplemental active remediation activities to reduce TCE concentrations in the source area and enhanced the separation of the north and south plumes.

Are the residents in the nearby community at risk?

No. ADEQ has stated publicly, several times, that there is no current risk of exposure to the TCE – and thus no risk to human health.

Due to the depth of groundwater, clay soil types in the area, and the fact that there are no groundwater drinking wells in the area, there are currently no complete exposure pathways that would create a risk to human health.

Nothing in the findings over the last seven years has changed the conclusion that there remains no health risk to Fort Smith residents from exposure to TCE in the groundwater beneath or near the Whirlpool property. Whirlpool remains committed to working with ADEQ to ensure that no exposure pathways occur in the future.

Is Whirlpool working with the appropriate government agencies in this matter?

Yes. Whirlpool has been working in conjunction with Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) since the problem was first identified in 2001. Whirlpool also notified the City of Fort Smith, Local Emergency Planning Commission, and the County Health Department of this issue in 2001. Throughout the process, Whirlpool has fully complied with all applicable regulatory policies and procedures.

Whirlpool used an Adaptive Remedy Approach to implement a science-based remediation plan outlined in the Remedial Action Decision Document (RADD) dated December 27, 2013 and a revised RADD dated November 15, 2015, in accordance with all ADEQ guidelines and regulations. The 2019 Annual Report summarizes the coordinated efforts between Whirlpool and ADEQ in addressing TCE in the groundwater under and adjacent to the former Whirlpool manufacturing facility in Fort Smith.

We continue to work directly with ADEQ using the latest scientific data to appropriately manage this site.

Does the contamination pose long-term risks to the community and the surrounding environment?

ADEQ has stated publicly, several times, that there is no current risk of exposure to the TCE – and thus no risk to human health. Due to the depth of groundwater, clay soil types in the area, and the fact that there are no groundwater drinking wells in the area, there are currently no complete exposure pathways that would create a risk to human health.

Nothing in the findings over the last seven years has changed the conclusion that there remains no health risk to Fort Smith residents from exposure to TCE in the groundwater beneath or near the Whirlpool property. Whirlpool has committed to working with ADEQ to ensure that no exposure pathways occur in the future.

How has Whirlpool addressed the problem?

Following the Adaptive Remedy Approach – which involves the constant gathering, analyzing and validating of data to confirm and update the understanding of the groundwater and soil contamination on and near the former Whirlpool facility – Whirlpool completed a number of required and supplemental activities both on- and off-site.

Since 2016, Whirlpool submitted the Annual Report to ADEQ, which summarizes the activities completed related to the remediation of TCE in the groundwater beneath and to the north of the former Whirlpool property. The reports provide a thorough description of the scientific data collected, validated and analyzed from 2016-2020, all of which have been documented and presented to ADEQ, the City of Fort Smith and area residents in yearly progress reports. The Annual Report can be found here.

Nothing in the findings over the last seven years has changed the conclusion that there remains no health risk to Fort Smith residents from exposure to TCE in the groundwater beneath or near the Whirlpool property. Whirlpool has committed to working with ADEQ to ensure that no exposure pathways occur in the future.

Whirlpool is pleased that we have joined with ADEQ to develop this path forward that will verify projected plume moderation and direct responsive actions if conditions warrant. Whirlpool Corporation is committed to continuing to work with the state and local community to responsibly address this site and move the property into productive reuse. Reports and additional information will continue to be made available to the public here.