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Government / IPBS

EPA proposes long-awaited cleanup plan for Franklin's groundwater

It’s been about seven years since residents in Franklin raised concerns about the number of children with cancer in the area. Now the Environmental Protection Agency has come up with a plan to address what many believe is likely responsible — polluted groundwater from an old industrial site.

The EPA wants to inject the groundwater in and around the site with material that will make the harmful chemicals in the water less toxic — including barriers that break down chemicals as the water flows through.

“The kind of remedy that we are doing, we've already tested out at the site. We think it'll be very effective," said Chris Black, a corrective action project manager with the EPA.

Black said most of the cleanup would take two to three years. The agency would then monitor the groundwater for 10 years to make sure the pollution breaks down naturally.

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Franklin resident Bill Harmening said he has friends who have lost children and thanked the EPA for addressing the issue.

“It’s just too many. One is too many — and I pray that you’ll never leave any stone unturned," he said.

The public has until July 1 to comment on the proposed plan. But a consultant with the group If It Was Your Child said the public needs more time. A lot has happened at the site since the last public meeting two years ago — including a pandemic.

Black said the agency would consider it and encouraged the group to request an extension with the community involvement coordinator.

For Franklin residents — especially those whose children got sick — it’s been a long, exhausting road.

READ MORE: Why it's hard for the state to say Franklin has a cancer cluster

Back in 2018 when Edison Wetlands Associations’ investigation into the pollution started, residents packed the Franklin Community High School auditorium. But at this latest Thursday night meeting, the number of residents in attendance barely filled three rows.

Among other things, the EPA has overseen cleanups around sewers south of the site and helped install vapor mitigation and plumbing repairs in homes.

Contact Rebecca at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.

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