An amended lawsuit claims five groups are responsible for causing health problems to Bella Vista families because of their role in the Trafalgar Road fire.
Bella Vista homeowners are taking a stance against the stump dump fire yet again but they said this time it is in order to get justice for what they’ve endured since the fire started almost eight months ago.
“It’s real. This is really affecting people’s health, their homes, and their happiness and we gotta’ do something about it,” said Bailey and Oliver Law Firm Attorney Sach Oliver, who is representing the families.
Several people living in Bella Vista have joined together to file a lawsuit against eight current and previous owners of the site, according to a court document.
According to the lawsuit, the current occupants and owners in the case are Brown’s Tree Care, BTS Equipment, Cooper Homes and Cooper Communities. Past owners and operators in the case are Thomas Fredericks, Fredericks Construction Company, Blue Mountain Storage, and the Bella Vista Property Owner’s Association.
“ADEQ in 2008 found evidence that Cooper Communities and Cooper Homes were disposing of solid waste in the Stump Dump,” said Oliver.
Lawyers said they started paying attention after seeing the effects of the fire first hand.
“Ezra’s momma, Tiffany, started telling us about him getting these headaches from the smoke and we were like, ‘what are you talking about?’ Then we started noticing Ezra being more agitated … doing his therapy but he was just down,” said Oliver.
The Macombers are one of the three families representing the people of Bella Vista in this case.
According to the lawsuit, all three families have now moved out of their homes to escape the underground fire.
“We went up to their homes, got out of our vehicles and you’re like, ‘oh my goodness.’ It just hits you in the face and that’s what started a domino effect of us starting to listen to the citizens of Bella Vista,” said Oliver.
We reached out to the defendants of the case, we did hear back from Brown’s Tree Care who directed us to statements on their Facebook page. One of the statements reads:
Hazardous waste (trash, wiring, batteries, tires, gas canisters, plastic, etc) puts the liability on the ORIGINAL owner, and not the CURRENT one. The law completely flips. We’ve spent an exorbitant and staggering amount, cleaning up their mess trying to protect everyone, and the city/POA spent $0.
We’ve not been allowed to say anything but will say more at a later date. The truth will come to light about our efforts, and how much we spent to stop the area from collapsing in on itself.
“The “stump dump,” that’s not trees and limbs burnin’ up there,” said Oliver.
According to findings from the lawsuit, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found 13 out of 13 possible semi-volatile organic compounds in the fire, and 11 of 16 volatile compounds including benzene which is used in things such as glue and gasoline.
“We wanna’ support stopping the smoke, we wanna’ support stopping the problem but now it’s time, we gotta’ protect these folks,” said Oliver,
The plaintiffs are seeking punitive damages, but just how much money hasn’t been determined.
“A debt has been created, we gotta’ square the debt,” said Oliver.
The case is now on the docket before the Benton County Circuit Court. Oliver said they expect a trial date to be made within the next year-and-a-half to two years.
The lawyer representing the owners of Brown’s Tree care provided us this statement:
My client, Cletus Wilkins, has been publicly excoriated for the sole reason that he had the misfortune of purchasing the subject property in January of 2018. Moreover, he’s now spent thousands of dollars trying to contain the fire and smoke, not to mention incurring attorneys fees. To the extent there are victims as a result of the way the property was (mis)managed before he purchased it, you can count Mr. Wilkins as one, too.
We were also able to get a hold of the Bella Vista Property Owner’s Association who said, “once we officially receive the complaint filed against the Property Owners Association, we will review the allegations. We are unable to make further comments regarding ongoing litigation.”