Franklin, Indiana, located in Johnson County is a sleepy suburb just south of Indianapolis and was once an industrial center. It is these industrial centers that are believed to be linked to toxic chemicals dumped by the factories that used to be the economic mainstay of the region.
Parents in this region are taking the issue of these toxic chemicals with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Kari Reinhart is one of the parents looking to the EPA for assistance. Kari’s 13-year-old daughter Emma developed rare and very aggressive brain cancer in 2014. When Emma told her mom “Mommy I don’t feel right,” Reinhart said she told her daughter, “I know, they are going to fix it.”
Emma passed away the very next day.
That same year in the very same hospital, Stacie Davidson’s 10-year old son Zane was diagnosed with leukemia. Three years later he is now in remission.
“You can start to see the lineup of the kids getting chemo, and you knew three of them at least from Johnson County every time you were in the hospital,” Davidson said told WBRC News 6.
Believe it or not, POTUS Trump’s administration’s environmental rollback could be complicating the efforts to get answers to these parents.
In June of 2018, Erin Tilly received the devastating news that her 12-year old son had leukemia.
“Garrett is 12 years old and was diagnosed with B-cell A-L-L (acute lymphoblastic leukemia). There were just some warning signs I noticed, so we took him to the pediatrician,” Tilly todld WBRC. “And she did some blood work, and then called us and let us know that it was leukemia.”
Mutually devastated by these circumstances, Davidson and Reinhart joined forces to create the group “If It Was Your Child.”
Since their formation, the group has logged 58 pediatric cancer cases across Johnson County from 2008 to 2018. There were 24 of them in the town of Franklin, population 25,000.
When government agencies didn’t step up, the environmental non-profit Edison Wetlands Association did. It hired local environmental consultant John Mundell.
“We found impacts in the air, the ambient air, that matched some of the indoor air chemicals we found in the homes,” he told WBRC.
The results changed everything.
“It went from, ‘We knew it’ to, ‘Are you kidding me? Are you actually kidding me?’” Davidson said.
They prompted the EPA to retest the site last year, revealing an underground plume of TCE (Trichloroethylene) under homes and neighborhoods – and possibly expanding. The government put TCE as a list of cancer-causing chemicals in 2005, and former POTUS Obama planned to restrict its use.
The Trump administration has moved to delay that, and many other environmental rules deemed too onerous on business and industry.
“I think when you’re relaxing environmental laws, like is happening currently, the tendency is to not be aggressive in assessing sites,” Mundell said. “So sites like this across the country will probably continue to be a kind of put on the back burner.”
At this time, the cancers in Franklin have not been linked to TCE. But their gut feeling continues to driveDavidson and Reinhart to seek further testing as well as a remedy to make their town TCE free.
The EPA has said in a statement that they will continue to investigate the town of Franklin, Indiana.
“We take the situation in the city of Franklin seriously, and have worked expeditiously to investigate, develop a plan, implement the plan and communicate our findings to the mayor and the citizens of Franklin,” the agency said. “EPA is committed to continuing this effort as long as it takes to ensure all contamination is addressed.”
And Indiana’s Department of Health counted even more instances of childhood cancers in the county than the moms did. The EPA it plans to investigate why that underground plume went undetected for so long.
But that’s on hold while the government is shut down.
At the law offices of Jones Brown, we pride ourselves on principles of honesty, hard work, fair dealing and compassion in our representation. Our attorneys and staff are committed to adhering to a strict code of professional ethics. We dedicate ourselves to our clients’ best interests and making the legal process as painless and simple as possible for the injured and their family. Our mission is to make accessible legal help and services for everyone by answering questions at no cost and with no obligation. We aim to make the world of law understandable to all.