Brevard Public Schools To Test Drinking Water For Cancer-Causing Chemicals At Beachside Schools

Foam used for aircraft fires has contaminated military bases across the U.S. (U.S.A.F. photo by Senior Airman Kia Atkins)

Brevard Public Schools will test the drinking water at 13 barrier island campuses for any trace of cancer-causing firefighting chemicals discovered in groundwater at Patrick Air Force Base.

So far, no information has indicated that there are potential problems at the schools or with the drinking water from the Melbourne or Cocoa water utilities.

But to ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff at its schools, BPS is seeking scientific data before students return to classes in the fall.

School Board Member Tina Descovich, who represents schools on the South Beaches, said BPS is doing its part to get answers and protect school families.

“As the mother of two beachside 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,” Descovich 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.”

Some residents, who learned of one another’s histories through networks of Satellite High School alumni, have publicly questioned whether their cases of different types of cancer amount to a “cancer cluster.”

In local news media, they have pointed to federal testing reports that revealed traces of chemicals from firefighting at Patrick Air Force Base in underground water there.

Chemicals from firefighting foam — perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid – have been implicated in some types of cancer and thyroid defects, according to several scientific studies.

The Department of Defense found them at high levels in groundwater on the Air Force base in 2014 and 2017, and they can migrate underground in sandy soils.

While BPS tests the drinking water at schools, the cities of Satellite Beach and Cocoa Beach will test groundwater, which mostly feeds irrigation wells.

The school district has been in communication with Patrick Air Force Base command and city managers, including those over the Melbourne and Cocoa water utilities.

Brevard Public Schools has frequently tested school drinking water for bacteria as part of its environmental-health-and-safety program. It also tests for indoor air quality and lead paint; monitors wells near any transportation-fuel spills; and carefully monitors and manages asbestos.

Now it will hire a laboratory to do specialized testing for potentially hazardous compounds, said Dane Theodore, assistant superintendent for facilities.

Brevard Public Schools will test the drinking water at the following schools in beachside communities:

South Patrick Shores

Sea Park Elementary

Satellite Beach

Satellite High

DeLaura Middle

Holland Elementary

Surfside Elementary

Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High

Freedom 7 Elementary

Roosevelt Elementary

Cape Canaveral

Cape View Elementary

Indian Harbor Beach

Ocean Breeze Elementary

Indialantic

Hoover Middle

Indialantic Elementary

Melbourne Beach

Gemini Elementary