Work continues at Trafalgar Road site

BELLA VISTA — The air quality around an underground fire on Trafalgar Road was in the “good” category as work on a needed access road at the site continued last week, according to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

Work on the road started April 4. As of Thursday, 513 loads of road material had been imported and placed, Donnally Davis with ADEQ said in an email Friday. The contractor reports the access road will be 680 feet long, with 500 feet constructed so far, Davis said.

Forum planned

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality will hold a forum at Riordan Hall, 3 Riordan Drive in Bella Vista, starting at noon Thursday to present the preliminary response action plan for the underground fire on Trafalgar Road. Representatives from ADEQ, the Arkansas Department of Health, the 61st Civil Support Team from the Arkansas National Guard and Arkansas Department of Emergency Management will be present. Members of the Bella Vista community are encouraged to attend.

Source: Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality

Bella Vista Community Information Page

The road will allow heavy equipment access to the site for excavation and other activities, Davis said. The access road and the other on-site work is projected to take three to four weeks to complete. This phase of work will cost $318,000, she said.

The latest air quality results from ADEQ testing equipment at Fire Station No. 2 and near Cooper Elementary School showed readings of “good” from March 28 to April 2. The results were posted Tuesday to the agency’s Bella Vista Community Information Page.

An air quality index of 0 to 50 is considered “good,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The fire station had the highest reading of 48 on March 28. The site near the elementary school had the lowest reading of 15 on March 31, according to ADEQ. Cooper Elementary School is at 2 Blowing Springs Road, about 3 miles southwest of the site.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency says the air quality index is a yardstick that runs from 0 to 500. The higher the air quality index value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern.

Particulate matter monitoring measures the amount of solid and liquid droplets found in the air, such as ash, dust and smoke. The amount provides a snapshot of local air quality and how it might affect health, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

State officials urged residents near the fire in December to avoid prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors after an unhealthy air quality reading in the area.

The ADEQ said last month the site must be excavated to ensure the underground fire is extinguished and won’t reignite.

“An estimated 175,000-225,000 cubic yards of waste will be excavated,” according to a department news release. For comparison purposes, if a football field including the end zones was dug out one yard deep, it would amount to 6,400 cubic yards.

The ADEQ accepted public comments through April 5 on the plan to extinguish the fire and restore the site. The department received 30 public comments, Davis said. The comments were uploaded to the department’s Bella Vista Community Information Page, Davis said.

Firefighters discovered the underground fire at the closed stump dump July 29. It’s still burning.

Most of the waste in the landfill is expected to be wood waste, according to the department’s statement. It’ll be disposed of on-site using specialized equipment to keep as much of the smoke as possible from rising and escaping, according to a state news release.

A status report from January identified car parts, tires, scrap metal, concrete, plastic pipes and rubber being extracted from the site during excavation of a trench, Davis said.

The department received $20 million, drawn from different state government reserve funds, to get work started on putting out the fire. The cost to extinguish the fire and clean the site could be between $21 million and $39 million, according to state estimates. The state expects to recoup its money from past owners and operators of the landfill, according to a spokesman for the governor’s office.

Tom Judson, the Bella Vista Property Owners Association’s chief operating officer, has said the association operated the dump on leased land from December 2003 to Dec. 31, 2016, when it was covered with soil.

Nobody monitored the site the last few years it was open, but staff members would remove trash when possible, Judson has said. The property is now owned by Brown’s Tree Care.

NW News on 04/15/2019

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