FRANKLIN, Ind.—The U.S. EPA is continuing its investigation into any contamination in Franklin near a former industrial site, while the mayor, state and community members continue their own search for answers.
Parents with the group, If It Was Your Child, have raised concerns about the number of pediatric cancer cases in the area and any potential contamination in the area. Following their concerns, the non-profit group Edison Wetlands Association sampled homes and found some it said had higher levels of volatile organic compounds. It’s now re sampling homes, but since the initial testing, local, state and federal officials have started looking further into it.
“We want the responsible agencies to hold the responsible parties accountable and we're gonna see this through to the end, we're not gonna stop and we will get to the bottom of it,” Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett said.
An firm hired by the city, Enviroforensics, found contamination along a sewer line south of the former Amphenol site. The former industrial site has been undergoing a cleanup of past contamination, overseen by the EPA.
“What we're interested in is the chemicals that had already escaped the capture area if you will of the remediation that’s being employed there at the site and so what this has done is then prompted the EPA to require Amphenol and their consultant to collect air samples in homes as well as follow up samples both within the sewer utility the sewer line itself and to do further groundwater investigation to determine the extent of the impacts that have emanated from the Amphenol site,” Enviroforensics CEO Stephen Henshaw said.
The US EPA said access agreements have been requested for at least 30 homes for indoor air testing near the former Amphenol site. The company has been investigating any vapor intrusion in the area south of it.
“Sampling will continue until EPA has defined the area of off-site contamination. At this point, the data are showing that VOCs are present in soil, gas and groundwater within the original study area,” the US EPA stated.
It said some homes will have vapor mitigation systems installed, the same type of systems used to remove radon from homes. It’s also working with Amphenol, IDEM and the city in discussing options to address any sources of chemical contamination within the sewer infrastructure.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management has requested information from several industrial sites in the area. It’s also been collecting samples throughout the area, including homes from EWA’s report.
In a recent update, IDEM said in one home no PCE or TCE were found in indoor, basement or outside ambient air above laboratory detection limits. PCE was detected in soil gas from beneath a basement slab. In another home, it said PCE was detected in a garage but below a level of concern.
“I think that IDEM has done a good job with their testing and they have put all the results on our website and on their website. I think there needs to be more and they are doing more. They have sent letters out to the businesses that we just named earlier,” Mayor Barnett said. “They're trying to get records, do more testing. EPA, now that we've got them here, they're doing their job they're out there every day. I would like to see them do more but they are there every day, on the phone conference with them every week telling me what they’re doing,” Mayor Barnett said.
“It has become increasingly clear during our research that contamination has been an ongoing issue that was routinely given inadequate attention whether due to ignorance or most recently proven, negligence,” If It Was Your Child said in a statement.
The organization said it’s petitioning the EPA to form a Community Advisory Group to ensure community involvement and transparency.
“While researching, we have found that what officials have state in press conferences or on websites do not coincide with results and have been misleading to the community,” IIWYC said. “As parents and community members, we will continue to strive for transparency and facts while bringing the public confidence that we are doing everything in our power to ensure the safety of our children and residents.”
The group initially raised concerns about the number of pediatric cancer cases after their own children’s battles with the disease.
The Indiana State Department of Health recently released updated pediatric cancer rates for Johnson County from the state cancer registry. From 2009-2016 it said there were 75 cases in children 0-19 years old, which is a rate of 23 per 100,000 children.
ISDH said the National Cancer Institute’s most recent data from 2011-2015 showed the county’s pediatric cancer rate at 21.7 and the state’s rate at 17.6. The national rate was 17.9. It said the data shows Johnson County’s rate has been stable. No cancer cluster has been identified there. ISDH has never identified a cancer cluster of any type in Indiana.
The issues have not only caught the attention of parents and government officials, but of consumer advocate Erin Brockovich. She was in Indianapolis for the Indiana Conference for Women.
“We have had maybe a couple hundred people now reporting,” she said. “We’ll never go away, we’re kind of like a computer running around in the background and as more information comes in it helps us put a piece of the puzzle together. Sometimes we don’t know what’s causing that.”
But Brockovich said the community shouldn’t stop. She said they’ve gone through some records and are waiting on others.
“It’s just nothing right there at this moment is saying to us that that could be a link. Once in a while it's not that we baffled but sometimes you have to dig for these things, they just don't present themselves. The community does and sometimes it's something that moves through and it's gone,” she said.
She encouraged the community to stay involved and not give up. Brockovich said she wants to have her foundation on the ground.
“I’d love to have my foundation come out and get on the ground with them, yes, and that is something we'll work towards this year into next year and fundraise for and we want to create an army, if you will, and that's what it's gonna take. There's just not one person that can come in and figure not only the situation in Indiana out which there's more issues in Indiana than this place but across the country. It’s daunting”
The mayor said it’s his understanding the EPA will have a public meeting in the coming weeks as well.