Community reacts to Franklin environmental testing; group calls for more involvement from EPA

RANKLIN, Ind.—The City of Franklin said a firm it’s hired to conduct environmental testing started taking samples Wednesday.

The mayor announced Tuesday the city was partnering with EnviroForensics on groundwater testing near residential areas near the old Amphenol site to determine whether contamination migrated away from the former Amphenol property.

“It’s testing. It’d be interesting just to know what is there,” Scott Deremer, a resident nearby, said.

He and other homeowners said they’re waiting to see the results.

It comes after the group If It Was Your Child and the nonprofit it’s partnering with, Edison Wetlands Association, have pushed for more environmental testing at and near the former Amphenol site. They’re concerned about the number of pediatric cancer cases in Johnson County and whether or not any contamination in Johnson County could be behind them.

Stacie Davidson, a co-founder of If It Was Your Child, said they are happy the city decided to test, but have concerns. She said they had requested to meet with EnviroForensics as an organization to see the sampling plan, but said that didn’t happen.

“So we found out via local media on Tuesday that they were actually on site and testing so we had no idea that that was even happening and we just wanted to be kept in the loop as well as the public because where is the timeline or the public forum for them to ask questions or the transparency for the public, so that’s the part that we’re upset about,” Davidson said.

Davidson said they also have questions about the role and collaboration of EnviroForensics in relation to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

“We thought that we were past this to be honest. We thought that we had gained trust and we were working with transparency and this has kind of put us back a couple steps. So we don’t have all the answers right now, which we should and so should the public as far as what EnviroForensics role is right now and that’s what we don’t know,” she said.

IDEM is taking water samples from Hurricane Creek, conducting samples on the north side of the creek, conducting short term air sampling in locations around the city and re-sampling three homes that tested for higher levels of volatile organic compounds in sampling coordinated by Edison Wetlands Association and conducted by Mundell & Associates in June. IDEM said it expects some results next week.

“Partnering with EnviroForensics ensures an even more rapid turnaround. Our ultimate goal is to bring comfort to our residents as quickly as possible,” Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett said in a statement Tuesday.

In an email, Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett said If It Was Your Child spoke with the CEO of Enviroforensics, who is willing to meet with them and collaborate with Mundell to do split sampling. He also wrote, “regarding public input, we have had numerous conversations with residents in the area. This is an issue that calls for professional/expert advice, not public opinion. We entered into a professional services agreement with EnviroForensics. We have a line item in our budget for situations like this and do not need to take it to a public meeting.”

If It Was Your Child said they spoke with the CEO Tuesday evening, when they were told they welcomed split sampling, but that less than 15 hours notice is not enough time to mobilize.

While EnviroForensics is sampling this week, If It Was Your Child and Edison Wetlands Association are asking to see more of the EPA.

“Unfortunately over the last few weeks it’s really seemed like more of a game of tag you’re it between EPA and IDEM of conducting these piecemeal investigations,” Shannon Lisa, the program director for Edison Wetlands Association, said.

EWA sent a letter to the EPA this week requesting the EPA to take the lead on the residential sampling effort.

The EPA stated it’s requiring Amphenol Corp. to conduct a second round of outdoor air sampling. It’s also requiring Amphenol to “investigate a VOC vapor intrusion pathway by sampling gas in soil, sewers, and manholes, and, if indicated by the pathway investigation, testing below foundations and within homes.”

“We’re asking for EPA to conduct complete and thorough investigation of the Amphenol site and off site areas as if they have just been discovered, including tracing the contamination in soil, groundwater, surface water and air over time,” Lisa said.

EWA and If It Was Your Child are working to make sure the EPA keeps Johnson County at the top of its mind. They’re encouraging families to send a post card reading “Hey EPA: Greetings from Franklin, Wish you were here!” over an image showing the location of the old Amphenol site.

“The postcards that we’re sending out are to basically get the EPA’s attention, to flood them with information about Franklin and Johnson County so that they can’t forget what’s going on and to hopefully push them in the direction of coming in sooner rather than later and testing,” Davidson said.

They want them to remember their children’s faces. So families are sending in pictures with the hashtag “What About Us?” put into a slide show being sent to officials.

“We’re trying to hit the EPA hard right now, because our kids and our community can’t wait 3 months, we can’t wait 4 months for them to say this is what we’re gonna do, we need something sooner,” Davidson said.

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