Satellite Beach officials, including two Satellite High School graduates, are so concerned about the possibility of water contamination that they approved and initiated testing and digging four wells, long before the growing social media talk about the possibility of a “cancer cluster” in Satellite Beach near Patrick Air Force Base.
City Manager Courtney Barker (SHS Class of 1991) and City Council member Mindy Gibson (SHS Class of 1992) support the city-sponsored testing to assure them about the health of their hometown.
“We had no reason to believe that there is a problem, but we had so many people who are concerned we thought we’d at least give them peace of mind,’’ Barker said.
The Facebook group Satellite Beach Health & Hope for Tomorrow (now with more than 1,500 members) was founded by Julie Greenwalt, a Satellite Beach native and radiation oncologist in Jacksonville after she noticed and remembered several cancer cases through the years. The group sponsored a standing-room-only informational meeting June 24 at Kiwi Tennis Club about the cluster possibilities and possible causes.
“We’ve never had anybody indicate to us that there were abnormal cancer rates beachside. If she’s (Greeenwalt) able to find information on that, we’ll support her in trying to find a cause. We haven’t established there’s a problem yet,’’ Barker said.
The city will pay about $7,000 to dig two shallow wells and test two existing deep wells, with one near City Hall, one near Satellite High School, one at South Patrick and the Indian River Lagoon, and another in the South Patrick Shores area. Results are expected to be presented to the City Council in about a month, at which time the results will be released to the public.
What if contaminants are found? “We have no idea,’’ Barker said. The city must first establish that there is a problem, she said.
“The minute we start telling people solutions, they freak out and I don’t want to do that. We need to establish that there’s a problem. I want to get across to people that we’re simply providing information to people and people just need to rest easy until a problem has been found. That hasn’t happened,’’ she said.
Nobody knows whether or not if the cancer rates are higher, if the type of cancers are rarer or if there is one particular type of cancer found to be most prevalent, she said.
“If there is a cause that creates a need for a solution we will provide it at that time,’’ Barker said.
City councilwoman Gibson moved to Satellite Beach in 1987. “The testing wells are really what needs to happen now. I am hoping that the results are good and that will provide peace of mind for all of us,’’ she said.