Backyard Talk

Johnson County, Indiana, A Trump Supported County, Confronts EPA on Rash of Childhood Cancer Cases 

By: Sharon Franklin
When their children in Johnson County, a suburban Indianapolis community fell ill with cancer, no one had heard of Glioblastoma, Ewing’s Sarcoma, or Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. Now, families in a county that voted overwhelmingly for President Trump are making demands of his administration that collide directly with one of his main agendas: rolling back health and environmental regulations.
A community group in Franklin, Indiana documented at least 58 cases of childhood cancer, including blood and brain cancer since 2008.
Families and residents started asking whether the cancer cases are related to contamination.  These concerns about contamination and childhood cancer prompted the involvement of state and federal agencies. The findings from EnviroForesensics showed that cancer-causing chemicals were found in the groundwater, which originated from at least one former industrial site, Amphenol, which had a history of contamination problems. The main contaminants in question were trichloroethylene, or TCE, and tetrachloroethylene, or PCE, which the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) have said cause cancer in humans.  According to the EnviroForensics report, the chemicals and levels found “show that additional work is necessary to determine the extent of the groundwater and soil gas impacts south of the former Amphenol site.”
How did the Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) respond to the residents of Johnson County, Indiana? The USEPA commissioned the IWM CONSULTING GROUP, LLC  to prepare an Offsite Work Plan by December 21, 2018. According to the Workplan, the preliminary laboratory results will be supplied to representatives from the USEPA as soon as possible once the information has been received and reviewed.  Then the analytical results will be validated by a third party and the validation will be included the letter report being submitted to the USEPA. The letter report will summarize the sampling activities, results, and make recommendations regarding the need for additional sampling or investigation activities.
The families of Johnson County who represent a cross-section of the political spectrum have also spoken out against the Trump administration’s drive to weaken restrictions on TCE, a colorless fluid with a subtle, sweet odor used by as many as four-fifths of the nation’s 65,000 dry cleaners, as well as about 2,200 factories and other facilities. Steve Barnett, Franklin, Indiana’s mayor and a Republican, said “When it comes to public health, we can go against party lines. And I don’t agree with trying to roll back the EPA.’s role,” “Back in the day, there weren’t any rules. That’s why there was so much contamination.”


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