Report: Franklin Contamination Not Widespread Despite Some Very High Samples

Sep 20, 2018

Experts looking for cancer-causing chemicals in Franklin say, so far, they don’t see a widespread problem in the city. But recent sampling results show very high levels in some tests, indicating more investigation is needed. 

The City of Franklin hired the company EnviroForensics to sample the groundwater and soil gas at neighborhoods south of the old Amphenol industrial site. Most of the samples didn’t show high levels of PCE and TCE, the chemicals suspected of causing child cancers in the area.

But CEO Stephen Henshaw says there were elevated levels in one groundwater site and in some sewers. According to the results, those levels were exceptionally high.

Specifically, soil gas samples with PCE up to 53 times higher than the Indiana Department of Environmental Management's residential screening levels and TCE levels up to 252 times higher. A groundwater sample also had PCE levels about 10 times higher than acceptable levels and TCE that was three times higher.

“We’re not stopping, we’re not at the end of the road. We just — to date — we’re confident that it’s not an area-wide problem,” he says.

In response to EnviroForensic's results, the Environmental Protection Agency plans to sample inside about a dozen homes near the Amphenol site. However, the IDEM says there’s no evidence to show gas from the sewers is getting into homes.

Stacie Davidson, whose stepson had a rare form of leukemia, says she’s still concerned. She says this particular chemical can not only move in the water, but can also get into the air.

“So you can’t tell me that just because it’s in the sewer means it’s safe,” she says. "I talked to an environmental engineer on Sunday that said he would not allow his workers in hazmat suits down there until he knew it was safe, yet we have children going outside."

Davidson says she’s also disappointed that agencies aren’t doing more ambient air testing, which is where previous tests showed the highest levels of PCE and TCE.

IDEM did test the ambient air in six areas of Franklin and all were below screening levels. However, IDEM plans to place a long-term air monitor in Payne Park near the senior center, which had the highest levels of the six areas tested.

IDEM plans to resample the three homes where previous testing by the Edison Wetlands Association showed high levels of PCE and TCE, but so far have only re-tested one. The EWA says the EPA has also not figured out the extent of the groundwater contamination from the Amphenol site. 

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.