EPA Inspector General investigating 'Risk Communications' in Franklin

(WTHR Drone Cam 13)
FRANKLIN, Ind. (WTHR) — Investigators from the EPA "Office of the Inspector General" in Washington D.C. are on their way to Franklin.

They want to know if residents living near contaminated sites are getting clear communication about potential health risks. 13 Investigates reports on what sparked the federal investigation and what's ahead.

It's never happened before.

Federal independent investigators with the EPA's Office of Inspector General want to know how well project managers are communicating potential health risks to homeowners. Specifically those living near contaminated sites in Franklin. Not just an EPA controlled site, but state clean up sites as well.

"That's huge," said Shannon Lisa, Program Manager for the Edison Wetlands Association.

"Getting the attention of the OIG is something we, as a community and IIWYC, have been working on since January," added Stacie Davidson who along with Kari Rhinehart started the not-for-profit "If It Was Your Child," to draw attention to the high rate of children in Johnson County diagnosed with cancer. "The federal agency's presence is the attention the community of Franklin has long deserved." Davidson added in a written statement.

The investigation comes just months after Edison Wetlands sent a scathing 30-page letter calling on the OIG to "immediately investigate the failures surrounding the Amphenol site."

"Perfect storm of communication and of oversight failures on the part of EPA. I think this is a major opportunity not only for residents of Franklin, but nationally for some major changes to be made," Lisa told 13 Investigates by phone from the not-for profit's New Jersey offices.

EWA was the first agency to do residential vapor testing in Franklin. In its letter the agency blasts the EPA for decades of failing to take proper and timely action, saying "Amphenol has come back to haunt the Franklin community," and the site is "still dangerous (after) falling off the radar."

According to Shannon Lisa, the site was deemed under control for decades.

"For all intents and purposes Amphenol looked done and that was not the case." she said.

The OIG says it will investigate 4-different on-going clean up sites across the country. Franklin popped to the top due to availability of information like agency records, EWA's letter and media reports.

EWA highlighted a 13 Investigates report from last September drawing attention to the spread of TCE in sewer fill, off site with levels 252 times over acceptable limits. According to EWA, "agencies had to backtrack...causing the community to lose confidence in EPA and IDEM authority."

"These residents look to these government agencies for answers. And when the agencies are seemingly silent on certain issues, there's a problem," said Shannon Lisa.

Investigators want to hear specifically about homeowners personal communication experiences regarding: sampling results, human health risks, safeguards and scheduling for site activities.

A listening session is set for Wednesday, May 8 from 6 p.m to 8 p.m. at the Cultural Arts and Recreation Center, 396 Branigin Blvd.

Homeowners will be allowed three minutes to speak or they can provide comments in writing.

The OIG says it's critical residents in impacted areas continue to work with the EPA on testing and clean up.

A final report on risk communication is expected by December.

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