Brevard County school district to test 13 schools' drinking water for chemicals

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — Brevard Public Schools said Tuesday that it will test the drinking water at 13 barrier island schools for any trace of firefighting chemicals that were discovered in Patrick Air Force Base's groundwater after at least 20 Satellite High School graduates said they were diagnosed with cancer.

The school district said that although there is no information to suggest potential problems at the schools or with the drinking water from the Melbourne or Cocoa water utilities, it seeks scientific data before the next school year begins.

Brevard County School Board Vice Chairman Tina Descovich, who grew up in Satellite Beach, said she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2010.

"I had several classmates diagnosed with thyroid cancer and other really rare cancers," she said. "I just want to make sure my children and kids in the future are protected."

Karen Szewczyk, who attended Satellite High School in the early 1980s and who grew up one mile south of the base, told Channel 9 Tuesday that she was recently diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer.

"We ran around in the sprinklers. We played (with) the hose. Our kiddie pools were filled up with that water," she said. "Every single day of the summer, we were in it."

Szewczyk said she had no family history of breast cancer.

"I was healthy (and had) no family history. I took the bracket gene test. It was negative," she said. "My mom passed away from colon cancer -- an aggressive form of colon cancer -- in 2016. (She had) never been sick. She wasn't on any medication. She was 82. That just angered me."

Szewczyk said she is now cancer-free after undergoing five months of chemotherapy.

Federal testing reports have revealed traces of chemicals from firefighting in Patrick Air Force Base's groundwater.

Perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid -- chemicals from firefighting foam -- have been implicated in some types of cancer and thyroid defects, several scientific studies said.

The U.S. Department of Defense found them in high levels in groundwater at the base in 2014 and 2017, and they can migrate underground in sandy soils, the school district said.

Officials said the cities of Satellite Beach and Cocoa Beach will test groundwater that mostly feeds irrigation wells.

"BPS has frequently tested school drinking water for bacteria as part of its environmental health and safety program," said Dane Theodore, assistant superintendent for facilities. "It also tests for indoor air quality and lead paint, monitors wells near any transportation fuel spills and carefully monitors and manages asbestos." %



A laboratory will be hired to do specialized testing for potentially hazardous compounds, Theodore said. Testing is scheduled to begin July 10.

Drinking water will be tested at the following beach-side schools:

South Patrick Shores

Sea Park Elementary School

Satellite Beach

Satellite High School

DeLaura Middle School

Holland Elementary School

Surfside Elementary School

Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach Junior/Senior High School

Freedom 7 Elementary School

Roosevelt Elementary School

Cape Canaveral

Cape View Elementary School

Indian Harbor Beach School

Ocean Breeze Elementary School


Hoover Middle School

Indialantic Elementary School

Melbourne Beach

Gemini Elementary School