More Franklin homes being tested, some getting air treatment systems

A federal environmental agency is expanding its contamination testing area near a former manufacturing facility under question to twice as many homes and has started installing air filtering systems in some residences.

This summer, Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett and the Franklin City Council hired an environmental testing firm to begin testing the air and soil in neighborhoods along Glendale Drive, Forsythe Street and Hamilton Avenue, near the former Amphenol facility.

The majority of those groundwater and soil gas samples detected no contaminants, but three tests were positive for the presence of contaminants, such as TCE and PCE. The volatile organic compounds are contaminants that can have harmful health impacts in high levels but are also found in common household items, such as de-greasers, cleaning solutions or recently dry-cleaned clothes.

The city paid for the work because Barnett wanted testing to proceed quickly so Franklin residents would have solid information as soon as possible. The initial results showed the compounds were detected in high levels along Forsythe Street and Hamilton Avenue.

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For example, a groundwater sample collected on Forsythe Street, just south of Hamilton Avenue, tested nearly 10 times higher than the screening levels for PCE allowed by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for residential tap ground water. The groundwater sample was more than three times the allowed screening levels for vapor intrusion groundwater for TCE.

Further testing was recommended to start immediately.

Environmental testing and clean-up compliance is not the responsibility of city government; that job falls under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has been overseeing the cleanup at the site for more than 30 years. Other sites in question in Franklin fall under the jurisdiction of the Indiana State Department of Environmental Management.

“I want the responsible agencies to hold the responsible parties accountable,” Barnett said.

The city turned over the results to the EPA, which has now expanded its vapor intrusion and indoor ambient air testing area to about 30 homes further south along Forsythe Street, Barnett said.

“We hired that firm to jumpstart them (the EPA) and get them moving,” Barnett said. He’s not questioning the federal agency’s work or commitment to the issue, he’s asking for quicker response.

Homeowners are being contacted by certified letter from the EPA, but some residents have not responded, Barnett said. After testing is completed, results are typically available in about two weeks. Preliminary results can be kept confidential by the EPA until they are finalized, and Barnett is pushing the agency to quickly approve and make known all results.

If a permanent ventilation/treatment system is needed in the home, the installation has been scheduled immediately, Barnett said. He is being updated on the work in weekly meetings with EPA officials.

He said some air filtering/treatments systems have also been installed in some homes, such as along Hamilton Avenue, Forysthe Street and Glendale Drive. Amphenol has to pay for those systems, Barnett said.

For years, a system has been in place to treat water at the former Amphenol Corp. site on Hurricane Road.

That clean-up was ordered by the EPA in 1990 and 1998, after determining that a former owner had improperly disposed of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, before 1983. A sewer line that was found to be contaminated was replaced, contaminated soil was removed and a groundwater treatment system was installed. The EPA continues to monitor the site and clean-up.

EPA officials earlier this year assured Barnett that the site was being monitored and the system was working.

“That’s not good enough,” Barnett said. “Prove it.”

He wanted evidence that the treatment system was modern enough and working as expected, and the initial test results lead him to believe that clearly it was not working as expected. What’s unknown is whether contamination is still getting off-site, or whether the contamination is left from the original issues more than two decades ago.

More testing is underway at the homes, at manholes and in the sewer line backfills. Barnett is expecting a report from the EPA on those results later this month, then an action plan for what steps need to be taken.

The firm the city hired to do the initial testing, EnviroForensics, is still working for the city as a liaison, helping Barnett navigate the complex results and evaluating the proposed next steps, he said.

All results are posted on the city’s website, as well as IDEM and EPA websites. Another public meeting to discuss results and next steps is being planned for early December.