Construction to remove toxic sewer pipe set to begin in Franklin

EPA Franklin meeting

FRANKLIN, Ind. (WISH) – Construction is about to begin to remove a major environmental health hazard that is especially dangerous for pregnant women.

It’s a story News 8 has been following for more than a year in Franklin.

Residents got to ask questions Wednesday night before their sewer line is replaced. They said they’ll feel better when it’s done, but still have concerns.

The project will remove about 1,000 feet of sewer pipe that has been allowing a substance called TCE to seep into the ground along North Forsythe Street. Another 600 feet of pipe will be wrapped in a special sleeve.

Last year, homes with unsafe levels got special mitigation systems. Now it’s time to remove the reason they are needed.

Beverly Golden lives right in the middle of it all.

“It is very scary,” Golden said.

Joe Cisneros is chief of the Remediation Branch of EPA’s Region 5 in Chicago. He said the health hazard was discovered and treated in the 1980s at the old Amphenol facility. It was fixed in the 1990s, but new EPA standards showed last year that the soil down the street is still a danger.

Construction to remove toxic sewer pipe set to begin in Franklin

Golden has a pretty garden in her side yard, but has been told to not grow vegetables or let her 6-year-old great-grandson play in the dirt.

An information session Wednesday evening at the Franklin library gave her a chance to talk to everyone involved with the project.

“Wish this had been done a long time ago,” Golden said.

“Good step for the community,” added Kari Rhinehart.

Rhinehart co-founded the group ‘If It Was Your Child’ which helped prompt a reevaluation of the site, based on a belief there’s a cluster of childhood cancer cases from toxic sites in the area.

“This was the goal in 2015,” Rhinehart said.

“It definitely has got to do with changing scientific knowledge,” adds Cisneros.

Cisneros said the state department of health has found no cancer cluster, but other groups are still investigating.

He said by removing six feet of dirt and pipe, the contamination will be removed along Forsythe. Work will begin August 26 and should take three months to complete.

As crews do their work, they will be constantly monitoring themselves and the air around their site to make sure it stays safe. Anytime levels go above limits, they should stop to correct it.

“We don’t believe there’s a risk associated with this site to the general public,” said Cisneros.

But Rhinehart is worried about what’s still on the old Amphenol property, which is continuing to contaminate the surrounding soil 30 years later.

“Once the source is taken care of, this is an offshoot of the problem,” she said.

Cisneros said work at that source will begin early next year.

For Golden, the meeting has been helpful.

“This makes me feel a little better,” she said.

Her flowers are likely to be here for years to come, because playing in the dirt still may be forbidden, even after the project is complete.

“That part I don’t know,” said Golden.

As for growing vegetables next spring, “probably not. The only way I would feel good is if I had the ground tested.”

Making matters a bit confusing, just a few thousand feet from the Amphenol facility is the Webb Well Field, another site which has contamination. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is overseeing that site.

EPA officials said in 2010, scientists were able to determine the two issues are separate.

Rhinehart says they’re still waiting to hear results back from borings in the the ground made this spring.