Non-profit expands testing for potential contaminants in Franklin

FRANKLIN, Ind.-- A non-profit environmental group is back in Franklin this week looking for any potential cancer causing contaminants in the air, ground and water.

Edison Wetlands Association first visited last spring after community members with the group If It Was Your Child raised questions about any contaminants in the environment and whether that affected children in the community getting cancer.

"It's just me and my daughter that live here, so obviously you know I'm about her health first," resident Kyle Mckee said.

He's waiting for answers after crews working with EWA, including Mundell & Associates, took samples from his home. It's right by the former Amphenol and Franklin Power Products site, where the EPA has overseen a clean up since the 1990's.

Mckee's home is one of 30 where EWA is stopping by with a mobile lab. They collected more than 100 samples and used technology they haven't used during previous visits to provide real-time results and continuous monitoring.

"So with this technology we're really able to follow the trail of the data as we collect it," EWA Project Director Shannon Lisa said. "We really need to start getting the answers and getting the data that's going to lead us to getting that permanent clean up."

"Hopefully it'll help continue them pushing EPA pushing further mandates for further testing," If It Was Your Child co-founder Kari Rhinehart said.

Currently the U.S. EPA is requiring Amphenol to investigate any vapor intrusion in the neighborhood south of the property. The U.S. EPA said 40 homes are on a priority list. So far, indoor air sampling was completed in 28 homes. Five homes had vapor mitigation systems installed where volatile organic compounds were above screening levels. Two of those homes were re-sampled in the winter and results were below indoor air screening levels. The U.S. EPA also said pressure tests were performed in nine homes with elevated VOC gas in the sewer laterals.

While the agency wasn't available during the shutdown, it said Amphenol and its consultant continued working under EPA approved plans. The agency said it recently approved the company's plan for more groundwater sampling to delineate the groundwater plume and the company's plan for more soil sampling. Soil sampling at North Forsythe St. and Hamilton Ave. started this week.

The EPA said it was aware of the non-profits sampling but wasn't given details on the overall plan.

Mckee said his home was one of the residences in the EPA's testing.

"I think because we have done testing in the past and EWA started all of this and their test results are really the catalyst of, I believe, all the testing that has actually been done in the city including EPA and IDEM, so it is important they come back out," If It Was Your Child co-founder Stacie Davidson said.

EWA also stopped by the Clark's home. The family is looking for answers after their daughter battled  Leukemia. They said she just had her 5-year appointment and is doing well.

"We have concerns if there's, you know, if that might be a cause and so that we can be safe in our home and make sure the air we breathe is safe and the water we drink is safe and, you know, just our house is just safe," Jennifer Clark said.

The Clark's also had their home sampled by IDEM and Mundell last year. The family said there were traces of some VOC's, but since air in the environment can change season to season they're looking for more data.

So far, EWA said they found hits of some chemicals in a few homes. It's not clear how high the levels are and the data is preliminary. The organization is making a list of homes where they'll offer continuous monitoring to track the levels of chemicals throughout the day.

Meanwhile, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management is collecting information on other properties in the area and any contamination.

IDEM said work is continuing at the former Hougland Tomato Cannery site. It said people haven't been exposed to contaminated groundwater or any associated vapors associated with the site, but the investigation of the groundwater close to the property will continue "until IDEM is satisfied with the results of the site delineation." In January, IDEM said monitoring wells were installed in the farm field east of the property. Soil was collected during drilling and stored in 55 gallon drums as a precaution, but IDEM said after laboratory analysis the soils don't pose a hazard.

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