Cancer cluster fears cause Brevard to test water at 13 schools

Tests are for 'peace of mind' after 20 former students diagnosed with cancer

SATELLITE BEACH, Fla. – After 20 former Satellite Beach High School students were diagnosed with cancer, Brevard County Public School officials said they will test 13 barrier island schools for firefighting chemicals discovered in groundwater at Patrick Air Force Base.

Brevard County Public school officials said Tuesday in a news release that there is no indication of any problems with the drinking water from Melbourne or Cocoa water utilities, but that they are having the schools tested before students return in the fall. The results will be released before the start of the 2018 school year.

“As the mother of two beach side students, and a person who grew up in Satellite Beach and was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2010, I have many of the same questions and concerns as our community,” School Board Member Tina Descovic said. “I pray our drinking water is not affected in any way. These tests are important for our peace of mind and I look forward to receiving the results.” 

News 6 partner Florida Today reports that 20 former Satellite High School students, most under 40 years old, have been diagnosed with cancer within a few years of each other.

Dr. Julie Clift Greenwalt, a Satellite High alumna, oncologist and cancer survivor, is asking whether local environmental exposures could have contributed to her cancer and dozens of other.

Federal testing in March showed high concentrations of fluorinated chemicals from firefighting foam in groundwater at Patrick Air Force Base, reports Florida Today. 

The Department of Defense found chemicals from firefighting foam -- perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid --at high levels in groundwater on the Air Force base in 2014 and 2017, and they can migrate underground in sandy soils.

Several medical studies have linked the chemicals from firefighting foam to some types of cancer and thyroid defects.

The following Brevard barrier island public schools will be tested: 
•    Sea Park Elementary
•    Satellite High
•    DeLaura Middle
•    Holland Elementary
•    Surfside Elementary
•    Cocoa Beach Junior/Senior High
•    Freedom 7 Elementary
•    Roosevelt Elementary 
•    Cape View Elementary
•    Ocean Breeze Elementary
•    Hoover Middle
•    Indialantic Elementary
•    Gemini Elementary

Anyone concerned about cancer in Satellite Beach and the South Patrick Shores area can call the Brevard County Health Department at 321-454-7101.