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Old Tomato Cannery Stirs Up New Fears In Franklin

Franklin residents talk with officials at the Environmental Protection Agency about the contamination at an open house on Dec. 3.

Franklin residents talk with officials at the Environmental Protection Agency about the contamination at an open house on Dec. 3. (Rebecca Thiele/IPB News)

Franklin residents concerned about rare child cancers in the area are now turning their attention to another polluted site. 

State officials have known about the old Hougland Tomato Cannery for some time. But until last week, they didn't have enough data about the contaminated groundwater from the cannery to map it out. 

Some parts of the plume have levels of the chemical TCE that are higher than the old Amphenol industrial site — the main area of concern.

Kevin Davis with IDEM says there isn’t evidence that people are being exposed to pollution — either in the drinking water or the vapor from the water. He says the agency still plans to retest a few buildings in the area to confirm.

“People want to go with feelings. But it's the data that tells you what's actually what's going on,” he says.

Kari Rhineheart with the group If It Was Your Child says it’s hard to trust an agency that has known about this pollution for years and hasn’t cleaned it up.

“We can't just smile and nod and accept everything we're told. Because time and time again, the same agencies who have told us everything’s taken care of have been proven wrong,” she says.

Rhineheart says the agency has put out contradictory information that suggests it hasn’t defined precisely where the contaminated water ends. If It Was Your Child says state and federal agencies also haven’t figured out why cancer-causing chemicals were found at Franklin elementary schools south of the old cannery site. 

IDEM officials say once the agency has investigated the area, it plans to clean up the polluted groundwater.

This story has been updated.

Contact Rebecca at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele

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.

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