Federal agencies to review state's cancer cluster investigation, oversee soil testing in Franklin


FRANKLIN, Ind. (WTHR) - Hundreds of people gathered to voice their concerns about contamination and childhood cancer rates in Franklin last Friday.

It was the first time state regulators met face to face with residents since troubling test results were released three weeks ago.

The big question now is, "What's next?"

13 Investigates has the first steps, include re-testing two homes in Franklin and a federal review of the state's childhood cancer cluster investigation.

The EPA and commissioners from both the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the State Department of Health promised action at the first face-to-face meeting with Franklin residents.

First at the Amphenol site where toxic contamination has lived since the 1990s.

Joe Cisneros, EPA Region 5 Chief for Corrective Action, said the site will now undergo extensive groundwater, soil, and soil vapor testing.

"We thought that we had a remedy out here back in the 90s and so this is kind of a little bit starting from scratch," said Cisneros.

Concerns at the site ramped up three weeks ago after test results from the Edison Wetlands Association showed high levels of known carcinogens seeping into 6 of 14 homes.

The results included TCE, PCE and radon.

"Even more concerning than that was that two of the homes sampled had exceedences not only over the residential levels, but also over the less stringent commercial criteria that IDEM sets," explained Shannon Lisa, Project Director at Edison Wetlands. Edison Wetlands spent $20-thousand dollars to conduct the air and soil vapor sampling.

IDEM dismissed the radon and agreed to re-test just two homes, with high levels of volatile organic compounds exceeding indoor screening levels.

"We are fully committed to go resample those two homes where the VOCs were above our cause for concern," said Pigott.

Darrel Cochran's home had TCE levels three times over what's considered safe. He lives on Ott Street, behind the old Franklin Power Products site at 400 Forsythe Street.

"Nothing was ever said about contamination. Ever, you know," Cochran told 13 Investigates.

"That's precisely why we're here tonight, to understand if there are areas that we missed," said Commissioner Pigott. "We've actually had people visit the Franklin Power sites and we are looking at the Franklin power sites."

In 2015, 13 Investigates uncovered contamination at the old Ampenol/Franklin Power sites. It was part of WTHR's ongoing investigation into high cancer rates in Johnson County. Nearly half of the 30 children diagnosed with cancer lived in Franklin.

Those reports captured nationwide attention and helped to pass Trevor's law, a federal guideline on investigating cancer clusters.

"I want to know that you are going to use (Trevor's) law that is in place for places like Franklin so that we can get down to answers," said Stacie Davidson to a thunderous applause.

Indiana's health commissioner says a new review is underway by the Federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, known as ATSDR.

"They're actually going to go back, re-evaluate all the work that we've already done in the past, in regards to the cancer registry and looking at the concern for the increased cancers," revealed Dr. Box.

No timeline has been given on the federal cancer cluster review.

The state's cancer registry is two years behind. The agency says it will work with Stacie Davidson to compare the names of the 50 children Davidson said had been diagnosed since 2009.

Darrell Cochran told 13 Investigates IDEM has reached out to schedule retesting at his home.

Meanwhile, site testing at Amphenol could begin by the end of August.

Carbon filters will be placed on the pump and treat system to prevent chemicals from escaping into the air.

IDEM is also considering a permanent air monitoring system to get real time air quality results.