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State: No cancer cluster in Apopka neighborhood

More than a dozen cancer cases on single street has residents worried

Investigators with Orange County's Department of Health have concluded there is no environmental risk that can be linked to more than a dozen reported cases of cancer in the Parkview at Wekiva subdivision in Apopka.

[WEB EXTRAS: County Level Cancer Data | DEP Contamination Locator Map | Apopka Water DEP Report ]

A spokesperson for the agency said a team of experts including the state toxicologist "..investigated instances of cancer within this community and have found no evidence of a cancer cluster."

The investigation was prompted by residents' concerns of an environmental health risk after seven people on Park Glen Circle died from various forms of cancer including breast, uterine and pancreatic cancer in a nine year period dating back to 2006.

David Overfield, the Director of Environmental Tobacco and Injury Prevention for the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, was in the neighborhood last week.

Overfield said the situation was "not being investigated as a cancer cluster" but that the agency is sensitive to any cancer concerns.

"Before you can attribute environmental causes to a cancer, number one you have to know that there is a possible trigger in the environment for that cancer," Overfield said. "We were looking at things mentioned by residents (including) proximity to possible contamination sites."

The Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection conducted independent tests of the Apopka drinking water supply on Oct. 9.

A DEP technician took water samples and found no high levels of chlorine , disinfection by-products or other "sanitary hazards."

DEP spokesman David Herbster says all findings indicate "the water is safe."

Marcia Williams first heard the cancer rumors when she first moved into the neighborhood.

She said she started believing them when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2010.

Williams, who has no history of cancer in her family, has lived on Park Glenn Circle since 2002.

Williams' next-door neighbor died from uterine cancer. A few doors down, another neighbor died from pancreatic cancer.

Then she learned 44-year-old Cesar Castro Ortiz was just diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in July .

Ortiz, a health enthusiast, said he drank protein drinks and iced tea with a lot of water. He's convinced something in the water caused his illness.

"In this neighborhood, I don't need to see any papers," said Castro Ortiz. "The stories that I've heard, which are not stories, they are facts. I've seen it. I'm living it."

Marcia Williams said she wonders if there is some unknown environmental connection.

"I would be lying to say, ‘Yes, there is something going on,' because I don't know," Williams said. "But is it something worth looking into? I think so."

News 6 Investigator Mike Holfeld met with Williams the day she returned from a meeting with doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

She was told the cancer, first diagnosed and treated four years ago, had spread to her liver.

"I've never lived anywhere where so many people are dying," she said.

Eddie Poirier lost his wife Sheila to a rare form of breast cancer in July.

Poirier started wondering if there was a connection to something in the soil or the water.

He launched a Facebook page he calls "Apopka Cancer Cases." The site already has more than 1,640 followers and the page is packed with theories about contaminated soil and high levels of chlorine tainting the city's drinking water.

Poirier has been pushing to get answers, but so far, there is no scientific evidence of an environmental red flag.