Crews to begin underground dump fire cleanup Saturday

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BELLA VISTA, Ark. (AP) — Officials say an environmental engineering firm is preparing to extinguish an underground dump fire that's been burning since July at a former unlicensed northwest Arkansas dump.

KFSM reports that crews will begin firefighting Saturday in Bella Vista, about 170 miles (270 kilometers) northwest of Little Rock.

E-3 Environmental says the first day or two of firefighting will be "experimental" as crews determine how aggressively they can fight the fire based on how much smoke and particulate are generated.

The Bella Vista Property Owners Association has taken responsibility for the fire and has said the cleanup will cost about $4 million. Crews plan to excavate and destroy organic material in a trench burn while potentially hazardous waste will be contained, transported and disposed of according to state regulations.

According to the association's timeline, the fire will be extinguished within 30 days after crews mobilized Wednesday.

Residents noticed the fire last July. Federal and state agencies have been monitoring air quality since November and have said the majority of the readings have been "good" or "moderate," except for one "unhealthy" reading in December. The state's health department then issued a health alert, warning residents to "avoid prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors," including "running, playing or yardwork."

Some residents say smoke has caused respiratory and other health problems.

The POA's chief operating officer Tom Judson warned that the smoke will "get worse before it gets better."

The association operated the site as a so-called "stump dump," and allowed residents to dispose of organic material there. It was never licensed by the state and inspectors said they have found non-organic material there such as car batteries, wiring and swimming pool liners.

The dump was shuttered in 2016 and was sold to a tree trimming and disposal service early last year.


Information from: KFSM-TV,

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