Water testing in works at all public schools

Tests are being conducted at all 13 beachside public schools to determine whether any of the toxic chemicals recently revealed in water at Patrick Air Force Base pose a threat to students’ drinking water.

Brevard Public Schools announced the testing last week. It’s expected to be completed, and the results made public, before school resumes on Aug. 10.

“There is no evidence at this time of contaminated groundwater,” Dane Theodore, assistant school superintendent for facilities, said after the testing was announced last week. “We don’t expect that there will be any of these chemicals present in our water.”

The Department of Defense recently issued a list of 126 military bases nationwide where water on base or nearby is contaminated with perfluorinated compounds known to cause birth defects and certain types of cancer. The chemicals are used in many everyday household items, but are heavily concentrated in the foam used to put out aircraft fires.

The contaminants were found in water at Patrick. The DOD did not test any groundwater outside of the base.

The report brought renewed attention to concerns of a “cancer cluster” and other negative impacts, especially in Satellite Beach. Testing is already underway by the city at four sites in Satellite Beach, including at a site near the high school and another in South Patrick Shores.

Drinking water in the beachside communities does not come directly from local groundwater. Southern beach communities receive their water from the city of Melbourne, while northern communities get theirs from the city of Cocoa.

Theodore pointed out that it’s unlikely that any of the dangerous chemical would make its way into drinking water at the schools, even if it is found in the groundwater.

He said the only way that would be possible was if there was an unusual combination of corroded pipes and low water pressure that would allow groundwater intrusion.

BPS environmental health and safety manager Jim Powers said the water is tested regularly for other contaminants by both Melbourne and Cocoa utilities, and those tests are shared with the school district.

The additional testing for the chemicals cited in the DOD report is being done out of an abundance of caution, both Powers and Theodore said.

“We are part of the community so we want to do our part in helping solve problems,” Powers said.  “We’re acting as expediently as we think we can to support the process of gathering and sharing information.”

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