(Times Record (Fort Smith, AR) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 16--Fort Smith leaders on Tuesday will consider a contingent-fee agreement with an Illinois law firm that wants to represent the city against Whirlpool Corp. over contamination.
Melissa Sims of Sims Law Office based in Princeton, Ill., has asked to represent the city against Whirlpool for violating the city's nuisance ordinances by contaminating soil and groundwater with a toxic chemical.
"In the past, the city hasn't enforced its nuisance ordinances against industrial pollution violations," City Administrator Ray Gosack wrote in a memo to the Fort Smith Board of Directors. "Rather, the city has relied on the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to address air, ground and water pollution."
According to the state and Whirlpool, soil and groundwater at the company's dormant plant on Jenny Lind Road are contaminated with trichloroethylene, known as TCE, a substance classified as a human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. TCE also has been found in groundwater underneath about 50 homes north of the plant, which closed in 2012.
A long-term, state-approved cleanup plan is in the works. The plan calls for several remedies, such as covering impacted soil on Whirlpool's property with asphalt, institutional controls and treatment of groundwater with a chemical oxidant.
Sims, who spoke via speakerphone with directors during a study session last week, said she successfully represented the Village of DePue, Ill., in an environmental contamination case against ExxonMobil and CBS Viacom for $975,000. According to Sims, she is also involved in pending litigation against Shell and Conoco Philips over ordinance violations in Roxana, Ill.
"If a claim is discovered during the course of my investigation which may result in the filing of a claim in court for recovery, myself and a top tier law firm would be representing Fort Smith on a one-third contingent fee basis," Sims wrote in a letter to Gosack.
A resolution approving the agreement is on the board's Tuesday meeting agenda. Directors will meet at 6 p.m. at the Fort Smith Public Schools Service Center, 3205 Jenny Lind Road.
Also Tuesday, the board will be asked to endorse Butler & Cook, Inc. for the state Tax Back program.
According to Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman, the program allows for new or expanding businesses to request a refund on sales taxes paid for building materials, new equipment and other costs.
"The current request is on behalf of Butler & Cook, Inc., who plans to expand its current facility located at 8307 Ball Road in Fort Smith by investing $11.2 million in new construction and equipment at the facility," Dingman wrote in a report. "This expansion will add 45 new jobs to the region."
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