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Some Franklin families remain concerned about possible toxins near schools

FRANKLIN, Ind. (WISH) — Some parents from Franklin Community Schools said they are pulling their students from Webb Elementary and Needham Elementary, due to fears of cancer causing chemicals underneath the school.

There was a meeting Monday night where concerned parents were able to ask questions. There was a meeting held at each school, but News 8 was not invited inside. News 8 asked why but a reason was not given.

Last week, Franklin Community Schools announced 44 air samplings from the two schools’ indoor and outdoor air came back without detection of PCE and TCE, two cancer-causing carcinogens. Before spring break, Webb Elementary and Needham Elementary had an e-learning day after dangerous levels of TCE and PCE were found underneath the school. 

Webb Elementary had three areas of dangerous levels originally underneath the school. The latest round of testing showed two areas, that were in different locations from the original. 

Needham Elementary had two levels of dangerous levels tested underneath the school originally. The latest round of testing showed none. 

At a press conference with the media Monday morning, when students returned to class after spring break, Superintendent David Clendening said he was comfortable with the test results and the schools are safe. 

Meanwhile, Monday night, some parents talked to News 8 about their meeting. One was Molly Knight, who said she would never send her daughter back to Webb Elementary. 

Knight said her daughter, who is in kindergarten, has had health problems all year. It has gotten to the point where Knight said her daughter is getting tests this week for cancer. 

She said she went to Monday night’s meeting to get a better understanding of symptoms of exposure to TCE or PCE. 

“When I asked the doctor what the physical symptoms were if you were exposed to either of these chemicals, he just said ‘I don’t know,’” she said. 

Knight said she cannot prove the school is the problem, but she said she doesn’t want to take any chances. 

She said she and other parents remain concerned about the school’s safety. Knight said parents asked about the possibility of transferring schools. However, she said as she left the meeting, the answers to those questions remained unclear. 

She said there was “probably not” anything the district representatives could have said to make her feel any better. Knight called it a mother’s intuition.

But not all parents feel the same way as Knight, and others News 8 spoke with off-camera. 

Craig Palmer has a first grader at Webb Elementary and he said he has no intention of pulling his child out of school.

“Do your research, we got to listen to the experts and look at the readings,” he said. 

He added he felt comfortable with the meeting Monday night and what he heard from the experts. He said they explained the breakdown of the test results that showed no TCE or PCE in the indoor or outdoor air at the two elementary schools. 

“That’s the important part for my child being inside the school,” said Palmer. 

At the media press briefing Monday morning, questions were asked of the firm that performed the testing, EnviroForensics.

One question posed to Jeff Carnahan, the company’s president, was whether he could guarantee children were safe in their classrooms Monday. 

“I can guarantee that the collected samples taken based on the IDEM and EPA methodologies we used in order to be able to compare them to the health based screening levels created by those entities, those levels were non-detect for any PCE, TCE or any other volatile compound of concern,” he responded.  

More testing is planned at the school before the year ends. 

Superintendent David Clendening said the district is spending around $300,000 to help mitigate the levels of TCE that has been found underneath Webb and Needham. 

As for the origin of the chemicals that have been found underneath the school, that remains under investigation.

EnviroForensics is testing a sewer line that runs by the two schools. The sewer line also runs by two facilities in Franklin that have environmental cleanups through the Indiana Department of Environmental Management: the Hoagland Cannery facliity and Reed Manufacturing. 

Those tests results are expected this week. 

The school district has also taken measures to cut off drains from the sewer line to get to the schools.