FRANKLIN, Ind. – Local, state and federal officials are revealing new results from environmental testing in Franklin Tuesday.
The update comes after parents with the group If It Was Your Child raised concerns about the number of pediatric cancer cases in the area and whether there's any environmental contamination. They partnered with the non-profit group Edison Wetlands Association to sample homes. EWA said results showed higher levels of PCE and TCE in some homes.
"I feel like our city has really championed this and really gone forward making sure we’re all safe as a community," Patty Meade said.
Meade's home was tested by EWA, but she said the results came back okay. Her son, Evan, battled Leukemia. It's been 8 years since the now 24-year-old's last treatment. In that time, he's gone to college and moved back to Franklin.
Following those EWA's results, the city of Franklin, IDEM and U.S. EPA committed to further investigation.
"I am doing everything in my power to support these agencies for the assurance of public safety and the quality of life," Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett said.
The city partnered with Enviroforensics to look into the area south of the former Amphenol site. The site was part of EPA's RCRA corrective action program, and the agency has overseen a cleanup of the industrial site since the 1990s.
Enviroforensics said the majority of the neighborhood was not affected, but sampling confirmed contamination near sanitary sewers running parallel to Hamilton Ave. and Forsythe St.
"That did show elevated levels, not within the sewer necessarily but in the soil, gas and one in the groundwater sample, so there's still work to be done," said Stephen Henshaw, the CEO of Enviroforensics.
"It was news as of this morning so it was kind of interesting to hear," Evan Meade said.
He said he lived in that area for the past year up until two weeks ago.
"I know the mayor and his team have been working tirelessly to get this problem solved, if there is a problem to be solved," Meade said.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is also testing throughout Franklin. It said no detectable volatile organic compounds were found in surface water samples taken from Hurricane Creek, ambient air samples came back below screening levels for PCE and TCE, no detectable VOC's were found in ground water samples taken near Hurricane Creek, and PCE and TCE were not found above detection limits in drinking water wells near the Paris Estates subdivision. IDEM said it also tested one of the homes from report released by EWA, and said it did not test above limits for VOC's inside.
"The data that we've collected in all of these different situations demonstrates no specific environmental concern that is widespread over the city of Franklin," IDEM Commissioner Bruno Pigott said.
IDEM still plans to install a stationary air monitor. Meanwhile, the U.S. EPA has required Amphenol to further investigate any potential contamination on the site and any potential contamination off-site.
"Due to new information it requires us to take a further look to make sure that any contamination that may be out there is being addressed appropriately," said Michael Harris, the deputy director of the land and chemicals division for the U.S. EPA Region 5.
Harris said they are sampling indoor air at homes, but that results are confidential and will only be shared with property owners.
"EPA will require Amphenol to determine whether off site groundwater has been contaminated by its facility. If that is the case and the concentrations pose an unacceptable risk, the company will be compelled to re-evaluate its remedy to determine if it is functioning as is required under its legal agreement with EPA," Harris said.
The Amphenol Corporation released this statement:
“Amphenol Corporation continues to collaborate with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on a comprehensive remediation plan for the former Bendix and Franklin Power Products facility at 980 Hurricane Road, which remains under EPA’s full control. Recently, Amphenol Corporation received approval from EPA to perform the following additional sampling in the area along Forsythe Street between Hamilton Avenue and Hurricane Creek: sewer gas sampling, soil gas sampling, redevelopment and sampling of five offsite groundwater monitoring wells and sub-slab sampling of a nearby home. These actions have commenced and are expected to be completed by the end of September. Amphenol Corporation will continue to work closely with EPA and will continue to conduct testing as and when required.”
But, If It Was Your Child and EWA have concerns with the updates from Franklin, IDEM and the EPA.
"The fact these agencies are coming together and providing non-specific blanket statements to appease the public isn't working anymore," said Stacie Davidson, a co-founder of If It Was Your Child. "They have provided no specific numbers, no specific data."
"Several statements made at the press conference hosted by the City of Franklin were quite disingenuous at best, and downright negligent of basic science at worst. It is unfortunate that it appears the agencies used the opportunity to address and update the public as a means to deceive the community into believing everything is okay and under control," EWA program director Shannon Lisa wrote in part.
Lisa argued the extent of contamination hasn't been fully delineated.
"Without hard data, there is no way of knowing what areas are impacted or how far the plume has migrated," she wrote.
There is still testing ahead and more results waiting to be returned from the agencies.
"Franklin has always been and will remain my top priority. I was born here and raised my family here. My dedication to this community reaches far beyond my duties as mayor and I am committed to seeing our action plan through to its completion," Mayor Barnett said.
The city said there will be a public meeting in the future to update further testing results.