History of contamination goes back more than 20 years at Franklin site

Residents want to know if contamination from the Franklin Power Products plant caused cancer in children.

Neighbors in Johnson County want to know if a company with a long history of contamination is making their children sick.

13 Investigates told you about the alarming cancer rate in Johnson County. It's higher than the state and national average.

Now a childhood cancer survivor who lived in the path of the dangerous chemicals is questioning what's been seeping into the ground for more than 20 years.

Bailey VanVleet was front page news back in 1997.

"I actually remember this day. I remember the guy coming and asking me what I was drawing and I said, 'A dinosaur'," Bailey recalled.

At three years old, she was diagnosed with Ependymoma, a rare brain cancer. Doctors found a tumor the size of large lemon.

"In 1996 and '97, you know, you think that your child is going to die, and especially when you hear brain tumor," said Kimberly Livorno, Bailey's mother.

Bailey and her family lived in a neighborhood just across the street from the old Franklin Power Products/Amphenol site along Hurricane Creek.

"Franklin Power is just right there and then Webb Field is just behind that tree line," Livorno pointed out, standing outside the home where her family lived the year of Bailey's diagnosis.

They now know they lived in the path of contamination migrating from the Franklin Power Products site into the Webb Well Field. The Indiana American Water Company discovered high levels of DCE contamination in three wells in 2006. According to the water company, the plume of TCE, PCE and DCE began migrating 10 years prior.

"I didn't know until now, until your report came out," revealed Livorno.

Johnson County cancer investigation

Now there are growing questions in Johnson County where childhood cancer rates are above the state and national average. Families of sick children want to know if the contamination is connected.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management would not speak on camera with 13 Investigates about the contamination and IDEM says it has not determined whether there were any exposures.

"If it's making our children sick or we're losing our children, that's not acceptable," Livorno responded.

13 Investigates has learned regulators found TCE, PCE and other potential cancer-causing chemicals seeping into the soil and groundwater at the site dating back more than 20 years.

According to a 1994 risk assessment, the site did "...not pose a risk to human health...but may pose a risk at some time in the future."

A decision was made not to dig up the contaminates because it "increased exposure potential for workers, the employees and residents alike."

In fact, the EPA sited the area for a SuperFund remediation plan. It was completed in 2001. But it wasn't enough to stop the same hazardous contaminants from migrating into the three water wells at the Webb Well Field.

Neighbors told 13 Investigates it should have never gotten that far.

"It's really hard to see them battle this. It just isn't fair. We deserve answers," said Livorno.

"I feel blessed that I'm still alive and I'm still here, because there are a lot of kids that have lost their life because of cancer and it's really sad," added Bailey who is now cancer-free. The 21-year-old is attending college and getting married next year.

The Webb Well Field in Franklin is now a non-priority Superfund site with the EPA. A full cleanup is scheduled, but so far the effort is only half way.