The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality has announced that the Bella Vista Property Owners Association will assume responsibility for putting out the underground fire in a dump formerly used by the BPOA. News from 40/29.
The landfill was closed in 2016. It was intended only as a “stump dump,” for disposal of organic debris such as tree limbs. But there’s evidence of plastic and metal there, too.
The cost of extinguishing the fire is large. The legislature in 2019 appropriated $20 million for ADEQ to work on extinguishing the fire. The expenditure hasn’t been universally applauded because Bella Vista is a development of the wealthy Cooper Communities. Activist Jim Parsons sued the BPOA and Cooper to get them to pay for the project rather than taxpayers. That case was voluntarily dismissed this week after Parsons wrote the court about health problems. ADEQ also was named in the suit and asked for its dismissal based on sovereign immunity. But it said in that motion that the law allowed it to seek recovery of its expenses from those with liability after the problem had been corrected and that it intended to do so. Said the motion:
ADEQ has no choice as to whether or not it pursues cost recovery pursuant to A.C.A §8-7-514(a). It is mandated and ADEQ fully intends to carry out that mandate
The ADEQ will continue to inspect the site and oversee the effort to put the fire out. It has spent about $750,000 so far.
From the ADEQ release:
“The General Assembly passed a $20 million appropriation in the 2019 legislative session to facilitate the extinguishment of the fire and subsequent cleanup of the Trafalgar Road site,” the ADEQ said in a press release. “With the POA assuming responsibility of the site from the state, the appropriation may no longer be necessary, which will result in a reduced cost to the state.
The action plan calls for the extinction of the fire within 30 days after the POA’s contractor mobilizes at the site.
The BPOA said it had been working to address the situation in the most cost-effective way possible and believed with control of the work it could do that.