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story.lead_photo.caption Smoke rises Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018 from an underground fire at the former 'stump dump' site on Trafalgar Road in Bella Vista. - Photo by Ben Goff

BELLA VISTA -- The federal Environmental Protection Agency will collect more air samples next week in connection with a stump dump fire, according to an agency news release.

The underground fire along Trafalgar Road is on a site where the Bella Vista Property Owners Association operated a stump dump for about 13 years. Fire Department personnel said the fire may be burning more than 50 or 60 feet underground.

About benzene

Brief exposure (5 to 10 minutes) to very high levels of benzene in the air (10,000 to 20,000 parts-per-million) can result in death. Lower levels (700 to 3,000 parts-per-million) can cause drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heart rate, headaches, tremor, confusion and unconsciousness. In most cases, people will stop feeling these effects when they are no longer exposed and begin to breathe fresh air.

Source: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

Fire Chief Steve Sims previously said firefighters were initially dispatched to the area July 29, where they spotted smoke and what appeared to be the remains of a brush fire. The property is owned by Brown's Tree Care.

There were no controlled burns listed in the dispatch log, he said, and the property owner denies burning brush.

Mayor Peter Christie and Sims met via phone to discuss the issue Tuesday with U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., 3rd District Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, Becky Keogh with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, and Anne Idsal, Troy Lyons and David Gray with the EPA, said Cassi Lapp, city spokeswoman, on Friday.

The EPA will collect more air samples, including particulates, next week. The data gathered will help scientists and decision-makers better determine if the stump dump contains dangerous chemicals. EPA sampling is scheduled to begin Monday and will include three days of sampling. The EPA expects to receive the sampling data Dec. 21, according to a news release issued Thursday from Gray, the deputy regional administrator for EPA Region 6. The region includes Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas.

The EPA collected 24-hour air samples from five locations around the Brown Tree Service property Oct. 1 and Nov. 10. The agency tested for hundreds of chemicals associated with landfill fires potentially containing construction debris, household waste or tires. None of the air samples showed elevated concentrations of chemicals of concern in the community, the release stated.

The EPA also collected samples from a location on the Brown Tree Service property and found a low level of benzene on Nov. 10, according to the release. The American Cancer Society says benzene is a colorless, flammable liquid with a sweet odor and it evaporates quickly when exposed to air. The chemical is a natural part of crude oil and gasoline, as well as detergents, drugs and pesticides.

Stuart Spencer, associate director of the office of air quality at the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, told residents at Dec. 1 meeting the presence of benzene suggests there's trash in the former dump and not just yard waste.

The EPA agreed to have an experienced fire expert advise the state and community regarding the properties of the fire and recommendations on options to extinguish the fire quickly and with the lowest possible environmental and public health consequences, the release sated.

The EPA also has agreed to provide scientific expertise to assist the state Department of Environmental Quality in determining which benzene-sensing technology is available if needed, the release stated.

Curtis and Tiffany Macomber, who live near the dump site, have sued Brown Tree Service and John Does 1-3 in connection with the stump dump fire. The lawsuit was filed last week in Benton County Circuit Court. It claims continued smoke from the site has created a hazardous situation for the Macombers and their children.

Frank Bailey, attorney for the Macombers, said Friday he hopes the new testing considers more health issues than cancer. Previous testing ruled out cancer, Bailey said.

"They didn't address respiratory issues from inhaling the smoke," he said. "They need to do long-term monitoring and consider all hazardous risks."

The case is assigned to Benton County Circuit Judge Xollie Duncan. Brown Tree Service hasn't filed a response to the lawsuit.

Tom Judson, the Property Owners Association's chief operating officer, said the association operated the stump dump on leased land starting December 2003 until the end of 2016 when the dump was covered with soil.

Judson said nobody monitored the site the last few years it was open, but staff would remove trash when possible.

NW News on 12/08/2018

Print Headline: More testing planned for Bella Vista stump dump site

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