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‘No One Told Me’: Franklin Residents To EPA Internal Watchdog

By Rebecca Thiele, IPB News | Published on in Community, Environment, Government
It was an emotional night for many people in Franklin, like Michelle Dahl, who no longer feels safe sending her two youngest kids to elementary school in Franklin. (Rebecca Thiele/IPB News)
It was an emotional night for many people in Franklin, like Michelle Dahl, who no longer feels safe sending her two youngest kids to elementary school in Franklin. (Rebecca Thiele/IPB News)

Several Franklin residents say they were never told about cancer-causing chemicals at the Amphenol industrial site. The Environmental Protection Agency’s internal watchdog, the Office of Inspector General, took resident’s comments Wednesday night.

The OIG is looking into how the EPA has communicated with residents about the contamination.

“They weren’t aware of the site. So we heard that repeatedly,” says Tina Lovingood, director for land cleanup and waste management program evaluations with the EPA OIG.

Kari Rhineheart lost her daughter Emma Grace to a rare brain tumor. Her nonprofit, If It Was Your Child, recently found documents showing that sewer backups were causing contaminated groundwater to get into homes in Franklin. Rhineheart says her kids could have been exposed during the 2008 flood.

“I can’t help but wonder, should I have walked away from my house at that time?” she says.

Mother of five, Michelle Dahl, says she’s worried to send her kids back to Webb Elementary school because toxic vapors were found underneath the building — though the inside was deemed safe. She says the EPA has dismissed her concerns, even laughed at her.

“I want the EPA to pay attention to us so they could fix my town. Because this is my town, this is my home and I don’t want to leave,” Dahl says.

Several people who spoke at the listening session had family members with cancer or autoimmune diseases. Many of them wondered if coming into contact with contaminated water, soil, or vapors could have caused those illnesses.

The EPA OIG plans to prepare a report on how the EPA can improve communication by December. Lovingood says the OIG chose to look into Franklin after receiving a letter from If It Was Your Child and the nonprofit Edison Wetlands Association in January.

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.