March 28, 2024

Cleanup to begin on Franklin groundwater, one year after plan was finalized

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This map shows part of two plumes of contamination in the groundwater in Franklin — one near the Amphenol site and one near the old Hougland Tomato Cannery. - Courtesy of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management

This map shows part of two plumes of contamination in the groundwater in Franklin — one near the Amphenol site and one near the old Hougland Tomato Cannery.

Courtesy of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management

Amphenol, one of the companies responsible for polluting the groundwater in Franklin, is finally going to start cleanup — more than a year after the federal government finalized a cleanup plan.

Many residents believe toxic vapors that seeped into homes and businesses from the water are responsible for rare childhood cancers and other health problems in the area.

Sonya Baker Hallett lived in Franklin for nearly 20 years. Shortly after moving away, she was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer and a rare autoimmune disease that could be linked to TCE, one of the chemicals found at the Amphenol site.

Hallett said she’s glad to hear the company will clean up the pollution, but it was supposed to do that decades ago.

“We need to keep on them at this point to make sure it is cleaned up, do the testing, continue — because we don't want anyone else to either be affected or feel as if they might have been affected by living there," she said.

The EPA’s cleanup plan calls for injecting material into the groundwater that will make those chemicals less toxic and installing barriers that break them down as water flows through.

READ MORE: EPA proposes long-awaited cleanup plan for Franklin's groundwater
 

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Chris Nidel is an environmental attorney who represents some Franklin residents. He questions whether the barriers will cover enough of the area to keep residents from being exposed.

Nidel said vapors coming up from leaking sewer lines were the main way residents were getting sick, but the EPA hasn't looked into the sewers all the way south to the water treatment plant.

"The same potential for exposure exists all along that sewer line. And so there's potentially these many plumes of contamination and contamination of sewer vapors going downstream that has never been investigated. So that's still something that's not been addressed at all. We don't know that it's a problem — but we know that conceptually, it certainly could be a problem," he said.

Hallet said she would like to see more work done to investigate the health of former Franklin residents, Franklin College graduates, and older adults living in Franklin nursing homes.

The EPA will require Amphenol to submit a plan for carrying out the cleanup and monitoring the pollution into the future.

Rebecca is our energy and environment reporter. Contact her at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

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