June 6, 2019

EPA To Franklin Residents: 'We'll Do Better'

Article origination IPBS-RJC
EPA toxicologist Bhooma Sundar talks with concerned Franklin residents about contamination from the Amphenol site. - Rebecca Thiele/IPB News

EPA toxicologist Bhooma Sundar talks with concerned Franklin residents about contamination from the Amphenol site.

Rebecca Thiele/IPB News

The Environmental Protection Agency is taking steps to improve communication with Franklin residents. People living in Franklin believe that toxic chemicals coming from the old Amphenol industrial site may be causing child cancers in the area. 

Many residents told the EPA’s Office of Inspector General last month that they weren’t informed about the health risks.

Though the OIG’s formal report to EPA isn’t due until December, EPA Region 5 Administrator Cathy Stepp says the agency will act more quickly to better communicate with people in Franklin — that includes setting up an advisory group of residents and other stakeholders.

“Clear pipelines of communication that’s not just from us to the members of the community, but — equally important — getting information back. Finding out what’s working, what’s not working,” Stepp says.

Stacie Davidson of the nonprofit If It Was Your Child says the EPA showed improvement since its last meeting with residents.

“We felt heard," she says. "We felt that our information, our questions were received and we actually received good feedback from the agencies in the direction they’re going to move forward in the future.”

The EPA and the city of Franklin plan to replace or line some sewers that allowed toxic TCE to migrate toward homes south of the Amphenol site. Workers will also removed contamination from around the sewers. Officials with the EPA say they hope to start the project in August and have it finished by the end of the year. 

The EPA tested more than 40 homes in the area near the contaminated sewer lines and installed systems to reduce pollutants at five of those homes. The agency says it still needs access to 12 residences so they can be tested.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry also plans to do a public health assessment in Franklin, which will look at multiple sources of contamination in the area.

Officials with the EPA say they don't believe the contamination from the Amphenol site is responsible for high levels of TCE underneath two Franklin elementary school buildings — which means the source of that pollution is still unknown. 

Kari Rhineheart with If It Was Your Child says there are many questions that the community still needs to have answered.  

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.

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