Brevard Public Schools tested drinking water for 21 chemicals including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) to provide answers to families before school starts Friday Aug. 10. The industrial chemicals PFOA and PFOS have been linked to some types of cancer and thyroid defects. They were found in unhealthful concentrations in well water at nearby Patrick Air Force Base, probably from firefighting foam.
The school drinking-water tests found:
- No detectable traces of PFOA, PFOS or 18 of the other tested chemicals in any drinking-water sample.
- Traces of a related and less-toxic chemical, perfluorobutyrate (PFBA), at nine schools served by the City of Melbourne water utility – but at levels well below recommended safety limits. The source of that is unclear.
- No traces of that chemical at four schools served by the City of Cocoa water utility.
Out of caution, BPS has shared its results and sought a second opinion from the state Department of Health in Tallahassee. It also will re-test one water sample and test two additional samples from Satellite High, which showed a slightly higher trace amount of PFBA than at other beachside schools including neighboring DeLaura Middle and Holland Elementary.
BPS has posted the initial testing data to its website: View Data
Elsewhere, traces of PFOA and PFOS were discovered in recent city tests of well water in Satellite Beach and Cocoa Beach. Schools use well water only to irrigate sports fields, usually at night. BPS has sought guidance from the Florida Department of Health on whether to change irrigation practices to protect student-athletes, coaches and spectators.
Concern about those chemicals arose in conversations among residents who learned about one another’s cancer cases through networks of Satellite High School alumni. Through local media, they have publicly questioned whether their illnesses amount to a “cancer cluster” and whether it might be linked to chemicals in the water. The state Health Department has not yet determined if rates of cancer are significantly higher among beachside residents or, if so, whether contaminants in water are connected.
BPS tested the drinking water at the following schools in communities north and south of Patrick Air Force Base:
South Patrick Shores
- Satellite High
- DeLaura Middle
- Holland Elementary
- Surfside Elementary
- Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High
- Freedom 7 Elementary
- Roosevelt Elementary
Indian Harbor Beach
- Hoover Middle
- Indialantic Elementary