Concerned resident’s request prompts EPA tests for contaminants

South Patrick Shores resident Sandra Sullivan hopes testing by the Environmental Protection Agency will get to the bottom of concerns about long-buried contaminants dumped on her property.

She requested the recent EPA visit after smelling an odd, sweet odor. It only took digging a couple feet down to discover industrial debris – some military – dumped just about anywhere you dig in her yard.

Residents in the area and Satellite Beach and South Patrick Shores have long had concerns of health problems associated with chemicals from dumps related to the proximity to Patrick Air Force Base to the north of Pineda Causeway. Information is being collected on cancer cases in the area to see if there is an official “cancer cluster” or confirmed link, but none has been established so far.

As a result of Sullivan’s official request, the EPA is conducting two separate actions in the South Patrick Shores area: the Emergency Response and Removal and Prevention Branch (ERRPB) is conducting a Removal Site Evaluation (RSE) on her property on Dorset Lane; and the EPA’s Restoration and Site Evaluation Branch is planning to conduct a site inspection in the area, said EPA official Dawn Harris-Young.

Twenty-two soil samples were collected at seven locations Sullivan identified throughout the property, now marked with florescent paint. Sampling depths ranged from 0-6 inches, 6-12 inches, 12-24 inches, and 30-36 inches. No readings of concern were noted.

As part of the screening process and during field operations, some of the debris located at the property was screened for volatile organic compounds (VOC). That debris, as well as background readings, ambient air readings and the readings taken during soil sampling activities showed no VOC detections, Harris-Young said. The samples were sent to a laboratory for analysis and the EPA is awaiting the analytical results, she said. Still to come in May will be EPA tests on vapors from the ground.

The results from the evaluation will provide input for any further actions and will be included in the upcoming site inspection to determine whether hazardous substances have been released into the environment, and if so, evaluate the potential for people to be exposed to hazardous substances. Additional sampling is expected this summer in a portion of South Patrick Shores.

The site inspection is an early stage of investigation that is part of the EPA’s Superfund (clean-up) process, she said.

“The (site inspection) results will determine whether the agency will expand the investigation. At this point, we have not established that a release of hazardous substances has occurred. EPA is developing a sampling plan,” she said.

The EPA will use historical information and existing environmental data to select sample locations. No decision has been made yet regarding number or location of environmental samples.

Sullivan said she is pleased with the EPA response in that it will add to the body of knowledge about possible contamination in the area, including who was responsible, and help determine the best method – and possible funding source – to clean it up. However, she believes that readings in her yard should be taken at a lower depth because the top is fill dirt.

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