EPA Office of Inspector General listens to public’s concerns about contamination in Franklin

FRANKLIN, Ind. — Community members in Franklin are getting a new listener to hear their concerns about any contamination in the area: the U.S. EPA Office of Inspector General.

The OIG held a listening session in Franklin on Wednesday as part of a larger audit on the EPA's risk communication. Franklin is one of a handful of cities the OIG is visiting.

"How the EPA has communicated risk information, and including human health indicators to the public, and the way that allows them to avoid exposure to any contaminants or potential contaminants," Tina Lovingood, the director of land, cleanup and waste management program evaluations for the EPA OIG.

The EPA is overseeing a cleanup at the former Amphenol and Franklin Power Products site and the investigation into any contamination in a nearby neighborhood. This week, the OIG team visited the site and met with city leaders.

Lovingood said while they've had listening sessions before, they aren't typical, and that she doesn't believe an audit with the topic of risk communication has been done before.  They were specifically looking to hear more about on-site sampling and monitoring results, indicators of human health risk, steps needed to avoid exposure to harmful contaminants or substances, and the timeliness and effectiveness of the EPA communication regarding this site.

Community members took the mic one by one expressing their concerns with how they have received information from the EPA regarding the site. Afterwards Lovingood said there were a number of suggestions that could be taken back to the EPA right away.

"I heard a number of suggestions that could cause EPA to get some more immediate risk communication to the community," Lovingood said.

One Franklin family in the audience was the Denneys. They live just down the street from the former Amphenol and Franklin Power Products site.

"It's nerve wracking because we never know what's going on a lot of the times," Frances Denney said.

Denney said their home previously had hits for volatile organic compounds during sampling, and a mitigation system was installed. But their latest concern came flooding in two weeks ago when they said their basement started filling with water.

"We thought we had a blockage and the more my husband investigated the more he realized it was coming from the street not from inside the house," she said.

The EPA said there was an emergency repair of a collapsed sewer on the Denneys street. To accommodate repairs, a treatment system at the former Amphenol and Franklin Power Products site was turned off temporarily, but the agency said taking it offline temporarily poses no risk to residents.

The city said the system wasn't turned off until after a bypass was put in place.

"It doesn't calm my concerns any really we're not getting any answers," Michael Denney said.

They shared their concerns with the OIG.

"Hopefully more people can get informed about what's actually going on around here," Denney said.

The OIG said it's accepting input for the next two weeks. It will eventually issue a report to the EPA towards the end of the year.

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