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Science and Environment

Report To EPA: Don't Make The Same Mistake In Franklin, Thoroughly Investigate Pollution

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This model estimates water contamination from the Amphenol site (red outline) could have spread farther than the EPA's groundwater study area (yellow). Warmer colors show higher possible levels of the cancer-causing chemical TCE. (Courtesy of Mundell)

A new report urges the Environmental Protection Agency to fully investigate the pollution in Franklin before coming up with a final cleanup plan and avoid mistakes it made decades ago. Leftover contamination from old industrial sites in the area is thought to have caused rare child cancers.

Models in the report by Mundell & Associates show it’s possible contamination from the old Amphenol industrial site spread farther south or deeper into the ground. Industrial chemicals could also be getting into Hurricane Creek, which flows through elementary schools, neighborhoods and along a trail.

New Jersey environmental health advocate Shannon Lisa collaborated on the report. She said after decades of the EPA and the party responsible claiming the pollution was under control, they owe it to the people of Franklin to make sure it is.

“There is a lot at stake this time around to make sure the cleanup is done right and that more contamination isn't overlooked," Lisa said.

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Kari Rhineheart is the co-founder of the Franklin advocacy group If It Was Your Child. She said it’s still not clear how toxic chemicals got outside of the EPA’s study area, like in the elementary schools — and the community needs answers. Rhineheart said that's why it's important that the people of Franklin make sure the agency and the party responsible for the pollution do a thorough job.

“We need people to say this is important to us and we need you to move forward. Our kids are important to us. We need you to move forward. We don't want to bury any more children," she said.

Rhineheart said though the EPA is working to get some pollution cleaned up in the groundwater and around sewer lines, the pandemic has slowed some of the EPA’s work. She said this is no time to slow down because Franklin residents are still at risk, and that the agency can do most of its work safely.

At least 78 kids have been diagnosed with rare cancers in Franklin since 2008.

Contact reporter 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.