FORT SMITH — An attorney representing plaintiffs in two lawsuits against Whirlpool in state court said Wednesday he plans to add up to 12 plaintiffs to those complaints within the next two weeks.
One lawsuit was brought on behalf of three homeowners and the other on behalf of landlords who own 12 properties in an area affected by a chemical leak from Whirlpool, the Southwest Times-Record reported.
According to Whirlpool, a plume of trichloroethylene — or TCE, a known carcinogen — leaked into groundwater at the plant site, then later into a neighborhood to the north.
The chemical was used at Whirlpool as a degreasing solvent between the late 1960s and early 1980s, according to the company.
The company closed its Fort Smith plant in 2012.
A Whirlpool representative recently said the TCE plume is under control and the Arkansas Department of Environment Quality determined "there are no pathways to human TCE exposure, and therefore there is no health risk."
Plaintiffs' attorney Rick Woods said the company hasn't been served yet because attorneys intend to amend the complaints and add between 10 and 12 plaintiffs — which they'll do in the next two weeks.
Concerns of the contamination emerged after Whirlpool requested a ban on new wells around the site earlier this year.
According to the Sebastian County Assessor's Office, the contaminated area includes 55 parcels. Three are commercial properties, while 17 are homes in which the owners live. More than 30 are rental properties, records show.
The lawsuits seek damages for "the reasonable expense of necessary repairs and restoration of the property which was damaged," among other claims.
A third lawsuit — a class-action complaint — was filed in Sebastian County Circuit Court May 20, but Whirlpool filed notice on June 25 , removing the case to U.S. District Court in Fort Smith.
The complaint seeks unspecified damages for nuisance, trespass, violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and accuses Whirlpool of fraudulent concealment and seeks punitive damages.