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Underground fire at Arkansas dump raises health concerns

(Rob Kim/Getty Images)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.

A fire 70 feet (21 meters) underground at an illegal dumping site in northwest Arkansas has been smoldering for at least seven months, sending noxious smoke throughout the community, with costs to extinguish it estimated in the tens of millions.

           

Residents in Bella Vista first noticed the fire in July. It's beneath dozens of feet of waste and dirt in a 4.75-acre (1.9-hectare) former dump intended for tree limbs and stumps.

           

But state officials say the unlicensed dump was also used for non-organic waste like car batteries and wiring.

           

In December, the state issued a health alert after an "unhealthy" air quality reading. Since then, officials said air quality has been "moderate" or "good."

           

Residents complain of respiratory issues from foul-smelling smoke. Cleanup costs could be as high as $37 million.