US EPA says Franklin testing results concerning; working to conduct more testing

Homes were tested in two Franklin locations, including the old Webb Wellfield.
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FRANKLIN, Ind. (WTHR) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it is "concerned" about test results in Franklin showing dangerous vapor intrusion and is working with the owners of a contaminated industrial site to conduct more testing.

13 Investigates broke the story Monday about vapors from known carcinogens seeping into homes near the Amphenol/Franklin Power Products site.

For days, the outcry for testing has hit a fevered pitch.

A petition urging the EPA to conduct more testing has now reached 30,000 signatures.

All of this coming three days after 13 Investigates first reported about vapors from known carcinogens seeping into homes at dangerous levels. The U.S. EPA now says it will give residents there what they're clamoring for: more testing.

"It's about time," said Stacie Davidson, co-founder of the group "If It Was Your Child." Davidson has personally worked to get the Edison Wetlands Association to come to Franklin to conduct the testing.

"It's been a long time coming," she added.

"It's concerning," said Chris Grider, who has lived in Franklin for a decade. "I've got four kids, so definitely want to know that something's going to be done to hopefully find some answers and get it cleaned up," he said after learning about the development.

In a statement to 13 Investigates, the nation's top environmental regulator said:

"EPA is concerned...and is working with Amphenol Corp to conduct additional testing to investigate possible vapor intrusion pathways. EPA is coordinating closely with the State...and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry...."

"If we can get the EPA to come out here and do some testing themselves that way it's not just one party doing testing," Grider said.

Fourteen homes were tested within a 5-mile radius around the old Amphenol/Franklin Power Products site and the Webb Wellfield.

Six homes tested positive for high levels of Radon, a gas known to cause lung cancer. Six homes also detected the dangerous chemicals PCE and TCE. In three of them, the levels were alarming. In one home PCE was three times the state's indoor screening level, TCE 18 times the screening level and TCE more than four times over the safe industrial standards.

Now there is cautious optimism the community will finally get the attention it need, three years after 13 Investigates first uncovered the migrating contamination. In 2015, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Indiana State Department of Health did not take action, saying there was no connection between migrating contamination and sick children.

While the testing done by Edison Wetlands does not make a direct correlation to the high pediatric cancer rate, EWA does believe more testing could help to make a more informed decision about what's happening in Franklin.

"I hope it's real. I think when this came out a couple of years ago it was kind of like brushed under the rug. So I'm hoping that this time we're getting some real action on it," said Grider.

"I think it's a great thing. I just want them to stay on top of it and do what they say they're going to do," added Davidson.

“IDEM cannot make any determinations from the information that was released by the Edison Wetlands Association. We have requested, and look forward to receiving, the full report so that our staff can fully evaluate its findings,” IDEM wrote in a statement to 13 Investigates Thursday.

The EPA did not give a timeline for testing, but told 13 Investigates inspectors are scheduled to visit the industrial site in August.

There is still no word from the state, but Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett met with IDEM and the State Department of Health Thursday. His office release the following statement Thursday evening:

"The public health of our citizens will always be our top priority. We take seriously any allegations of concern for the welfare of our children," said Mayor Barnett. "We had a very positive and productive conversation today with local, state and federal officials who all want to evaluate the validity of the report and determine if there is reason for concern. During the meeting, we heard detailed accounts of the environmental investigation and cleanup which has been occurring over the past 33 years under the direction of the EPA. The ongoing environmental monitoring associated with that appears favorable, and both EPA and IDEM have assured me that they will continue their work as long as necessary to ensure there is no safety concern. I appreciate IDEM has reaffirmed that our water and air quality will continue to meet all state standards."

"We are confident in the steps EPA and IDEM are taking to evaluate the EWA report once the requested information is received. I'm pleased that EPA is considering additional testing at one location to eliminate any cause for concern. I have also been given assurances from IDEM that they will visit Franklin and address any concerns I may have should that be necessary."

"Finally, thank you to IDEM, EPA, Indiana State Department of Health, Franklin Community Schools and our Congressional delegation for their engagement and assistance."

On another Franklin issue, U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) sent a letter to Health and Human Services, urging that federal agency to meet and discuss the childhood cancer issues in Johnson County as outlined in "Trevor's Law."