Report indicates cancer-causing chemicals in Franklin could have spread

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FRANKLIN, Ind. – Advocates and environmental consultants are calling for more testing near Franklin’s former Amphenol site after a geophysical survey found it possible that the cancer-causing chemicals could spread farther than current testing shows.

The study, conducted by Indianapolis-based Mundell & Associates, tested the Environmental Protection Agency’s findings that clay in the soil around nearby Hurricane Creek could keep the chemicals from getting into the creek and flowing farther to the south. According to the ground-level survey, areas of sand and gravel in the soil could theoretically make such spread possible.

“The results really showed that there were these pathways, and the possibility of the moving of the chemicals beyond hurricane creek existed,” said John Mundell, President of Mundell and Associates.

The chemicals, trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE), were first released into the ground at the Amphenol site about 50 years ago. About five years ago, major cleanup and remediation efforts began after testing at the site revealed how far the chemicals had traveled in the groundwater. Remediation efforts have included homes and two elementary schools near the site.

However, the Mundell report suggests more testing is needed to ensure the contaminants have not extended farther to the south over the last 50 years.

“Hopefully this gets people thinking a little bit more again and really pushing the agencies to do what they need to do,” said former Franklin resident, Kari Rhinehart. “We’re not asking them to do anything extraordinary other than make sure what you say is safe is actually safe.”

Rhinehart lost her daughter Emma Grace to childhood cancer at the age of 13 before moving away from the area. She and other members of the advocacy group “If it was your child” believe nearly 80 cases of childhood cancer could be linked to contamination from the former Amphenol site. While the Mundell report doesn’t present proof of further contaminate spread, Rhinehart says it highlights the need for more testing.

response posted on the EPA’s website questions the report’s findings.

“For instance, the study did not use groundwater sampling data to support the hypothetical plume location, data which are generally required to validate a model,” the EPA’s response states. “EPA has worked extensively with the Amphenol Corp. to investigate the extent of contamination at the site, including collecting groundwater data in the residential area and along Hurricane Creek. This extensive sampling found no evidence that contamination is entering the creek or migrating beyond the creek.”

Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett said he believes cleanup and remediation efforts are moving along well and everything that can be done is being done. However, he also says if federal and state agencies say more testing is needed, he would support it.

“I am in this until the end,” Barnett said Tuesday. “it’s going to be EPA and IDEM to tell me ‘Mayor, we’re at the end.’ So, I’m all in until we get to the end.”

Rhinehart and Mundell hope to discuss the matter further with EPA representatives soon. Rhinehart says “If it was your child” is in the process of arranging a meeting with the agency in early July.

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